Our Ukraine Adoption Journey
In 2003, my husband and I adopted our daughter from Ukraine. Follow us on our Ukraine adoption journey through the series of journal entries below (this was the journal we had posted online to let our family and friends back home know what we were up to).
Remember that this journal describes our personal experience...not every region in Ukraine is the same, nor are any two adoptions exactly alike. The descriptions and views in this journal are our own accounts of how our daughter came into our lives. Grab yourself a cup of coffee and get comfortable...this is a long journal, but well worth the read. Enjoy!
November 18, 2003
A few years later, I went to college and met the man of my dreams. We dated for a couple of years, and eventually got engaged and married. Immediately we started to talk about the family we someday wanted to have. He'd grown up in a family that housed foster children, and also loved the idea of adoption. We planned to have four children (all close together), and adopt our third (as you can see, I like to plan things in detail...). This way, we would be experienced parents when we adopted, and the adopted child could be part of the fourth child's birth.
Fast forward a few years--we have our first two children, both boys, who are two and three years old (soon to be three and four). Dan is a chief of an ambulance corps., and I am a happy stay at home Mom raising our two little ones.
We started talking about adoption again last summer/fall (2002), and decided on Ukraine. Why Ukraine? Well what country our child comes from doesn't really matter to us (a child is a child no matter where they come from), but we like the idea of no adoption agencies being able to operate there--therefore, no agency is making a profit on the adoption of our child. The children are beautiful, and there are so many in need of a home and family (as with any country in the world). We began our lengthy paperwork journey--submitting just about everything you can think of to get approved for adoption. In the spring we submitted our paperwork to the Ukrainian government, and waited for a travel date. The travel date came in early August--our appointment with the NAC is set for November 24, 2003. My Mom is going with us, so it will be great having another travel companion.
In Ukraine, there is no preselection of children. Unlike other countries, you travel to Ukraine without an idea of what child you will adopt. You have an appointment with the National Adoption Center (NAC), where you look through the books of available children, and travel to the area of the country to visit with the child you select from the books. They give you time to spend with the child to decide if he or she is a match, and only then do you petition to adopt them.
We are hoping to adopt a little girl (since we already have two boys), but because of the demand for girls in adoption, we've been told that there are very few young girls under the age of two. We hope to not change the birth order of the children, so under the age of two would be ideal. We also are hoping to find a child with no or very little disabilities. Our first son has CP, so between his therapy and treatments, we understand how much more we can take on at this time.
I'm filled with so many emotions---excitement, nervousness, curiosity, and sadness for the time we'll be away from our two children back home. We are leaving a few days before Thanksgiving, and we should be home for Christmas with them.
It's amazing that at this time next week we'll be in Ukraine meeting our daughter (or perhaps son if they circumstances steer us that way). We are really blessed with this experience, and are anticipating the new addition to our family!
November 22, 2003
November 23, 2003
We have two words for our experience thus far in Ukraine…CULTURE SHOCK! We arrived at the Kyiv airport, and did not see our translator right away. We waited for a few minutes, and were approached by many people who wanted to help us in case our translator did not arrive. Finally Edward appeared, along with a driver, to take us to our apartment in downtown Kyiv. They took our luggage to a Mercedes Benz van, and were speaking to each other the whole way in Ukrainian. We were so nervous, and had no idea if these people were even who they presented themselves as. We had never seen a photo of Edward, so for all we knew, these people could just be some strangers who figured out we we were a set of adoptive parents carrying a lot of cash (okay...so our imaginations were getting the best of us)! After a long drive, they took us into a very old part of the city where our current apartment is located. The apartment building itself is very old, but our apartment is charming, and not nearly as horrible as we were expected from looking at the outside and the hallway leading up to it. We feel very safe because you need to enter a code at the main metal door, go up two flights of steps, then into a keyed wood door. Those two doors lead to our apartment door, which has two doors on it! You open the first metal door with another code, then the inner door with keys (plus the inside of the door has a deadbolt and three chain locks). We rode a rickety small elevator that smelled like urine up to our floor, and were greeted by the owner of the apartment. Her name is Nina, and she does not live here…only rents it out to tourists. She took a liking to us immediately, and treated us very hospitable. She kept hugging me, and insisted that I sit and rest. She was wildly cleaning the apartment and talking to us in Ukrainian, even though she knew that we do not speak the language. She fixed up the apartment, blew us kisses, and was off.
We sat for awhile talking with Edward about what type of child we are looking for. Our appointment is tomorrow at 10:30 am with the National Adoption Center, and he wants to be sure he tells them an accurate profile. After our talk, Edward took us on a walking tour of the neighborhood. We are staying in a very safe area, and it is safe to go out after dark. We tried to purchase phone cards and internet cards, but all of the small vendors are closed on Sundays.
The area is very old, with many signs of the past soviet rule. There are extremely old trolleys with tracks down the center of the streets, and an occasional military vehicle can be seen driving down the main street. There are lots of little shops you can buy food or other items in, but nothing you can recognize by western standards.
The Ukrainian women are so beautiful, and both men and women dress very nicely. They are very into fashion--I have a feeling I'm going to really stick out here with my winter boots and comfortable clothing! They tend to stare at us a lot, as we knew they would, and seem to disregard personal space. Many Ukrainians are very thin...the image that they hold of Americans is that we are all fat people (which may not be too far from the truth...). All in all, they have been wonderful hosts so far.
Edward left to do some errands tonight, so Dan and I decided to venture out to dinner on our own. We walked to a modern place about two blocks away (complete with American music and all), and it turned out to be a nice buffet restaurant. No one in the restaurant spoke any English, and all of the signs were in Ukrainian. Dan ate something that he is still unsure of what it was, and I just ate some bread. Tomorrow I am going to take my translator guide with me to help figure out what the food is! Everything, including the food, is VERY cheap here. Tonight we bought four bottled sodas, Dan’s meal, my bread, and a large bottle of water for a total of $2.96!
We seem to be blending in well because everyone keeps coming up to us talking in Ukrainian and expecting us to understand. We just stand and stare at them, unsure of whether to let them know that we only speak English. A few people have repeated themselves a few times, or tried to speak louder, hoping that would help us understand! We’ve decided that instead of telling people we do not understand, we are going to point to our ears and pretend that we are deaf. That has worked well so far.
Edward is coming back at 10:00 pm tonight to take me to the airport to pick up my Mom. She accidentally missed her flight yesterday, and is flying in from Munich at 11:00 pm tonight. One of us has to stay back at the apartment because the Taxi we are taking is too small to bring us all back in. We’ve decided that Dan will stay behind so that I will not be alone in the apartment for a long time. Besides…he’s enjoying the sleep! The last week before we left was a long and tiring one.
I’ll write more tomorrow about how things went at the NAC!
November 24th, 2003
After they returned from the airport we all took time to catch up with each other and we tell mom of the day we had in the city. Mom tells us about how at each point in her journey someone had helped her along the way...angels if you will. Later we all take time to have a late snack composed of hidden away crackers, trail mix, and of course candy before calling it a night.
I am having a crash course in humility. Simple things in the United States like brushing your teeth before bed are not so simple in Ukraine. Since you must use bottled water here to brush, instead of tap water which Americans are accustom, it takes longer! The two women have now laid down for the night but my internal clock is all messed up so I thought I should write to unwind. It is very strange not to have the cell phone ringing, the pager going off constantly, and two issues in your head to sort out at any given time with the JOB! I don’t mind saying it is quite nice to be away for a break from my USA life. Not knowing what is going on back home is pretty cool and I didn’t really expect that I would feel this way. I am nevertheless a little nervous for the meeting with the National Adoption Center (NAC) in the morning but am internally confident that God and our hearts will lead us in the right direction. Ultimately I am confident the right child for our growing family will present herself. Well, I really need to get some sleep so I will write more soon. In closing I must reflect and give great thanks for this opportunity and all we have. I also feel a strong need to give thanks for all those who have supported our adoption adventure and have our family in their thoughts and prayers. God Bless and good night! DSB
November 24, 2003
It was our first time on the bus system here, and it was quite an experience! We thought that the car rides had been bad, but it turned out that we hadn’t seen anything yet! All of the drivers are very fast and reckless, so it helps if you do not watch the road when you’re the passenger. This place makes the streets of New York City look tame!
After lunch we returned to the NAC, and the file was available. They showed us a picture of her, and she is absolutely adorable! We don't see any signs of DS. We couldn’t tell what color her eyes or hair is because it was a black and white photo. The photograph was from over a year ago, though, so we are not sure of what she currently looks like (all of the children’s photos are very outdated). She will be two on December 15, so her age is within our guidelines. She is located in the Dnipropetrovs’k region, which is southeast of where we are currently staying in Kyiv. We told them that we would go to see her, and submitted our request for a referral. The referral will be done tomorrow between 3-6 pm, and we will leave on the overnight train to the region. The train leaves at 11:00 pm Tuesday night, and arrives at 7:00 am on Wednesday morning. Once we meet with her, we will decide whether we want to go further with this child, and if so, take her for further medical testing. If we decide not to go further, we will return to Kyiv for another appointment with the NAC. Our emotions are on overload…we do not want to become too attached to the idea of adopting this child before we meet her. We have been on a roller coaster all day wondering if this could be the child for us, and it is hard waiting another two days before we get to visit with her.
After we got back to our apartment tonight, we decided to go grab a bite to eat and try to call home again. We again could not get our phone cards to work, and were worried that our families back home were nervous about us. Luckily, we met a couple from Texas on our flight out that gave us their local phone number in Kyiv. The husband is doing his PHD here on international adoptions, and she was on her way over to visit him. We called them tonight, and asked if they could e-mail some of our family back home with our apartment phone number, and they were so nice to do that for us. We were finally able to talk to familiar voices tonight, and everyone knows that we made it here safely. Tomorrow the couple is taking us to an internet kiosk to download this journal, and show us where some things are in the downtown. We were certainly lucky to have met her...another angel sent to us along the way!
We probably will not be able to write again until after we arrive and meet the child. We miss you all, and we hope that she is “the one” for us!
November 25, 2003
We arrived at this huge statue of a woman up on a pole (Greg calls the statue “the chick on the stick”). This is the “central square” for Kyiv. You can find many shops there, and in the distance, like a mirage, we saw a McDonalds (typically not a favorite, but when you're this far from home, it is a welcome sign)!
We met them there, and went to lunch at a little café. Mom and I had our hearts set on McDonalds, but we were the only ones. They told us a lot about the country and a few good tips on how to survive. Before they left, they showed us where an internet café was, and we were able to send our first e-mail home in days.
We said goodbye to them, wrote our e-mails, and then ventured back into the streets. We bought some CDs from a group of men playing some beautiful Ukrainian music, and then found a payphone to call Edward (to find out where we lived, and how to get back). After speaking with him, we went to a McDonalds (heaven!) for some baked potato fries (literally a potato slice up into big pieces and prepared the same way as French fries—very yummy).
We got home without incident (phew!), and started packing up our luggage to go. Edward said that we may or may not travel that night, but that we should be prepared for his call. At 7:00 pm, he called to say that we would be taking the overnight train, which would leave from Kyiv at 10:50 pm.
Around 10:00 he showed up with a van to pick us up. Inside the van was Natalie, his wife, who is also a translator. They are still newlyweds, and have only been married since last May. We watch them make “google eyes” at each other during the whole ride (thank goodness they weren’t driving—ha-ha!), and arrived at the train station around 10:30.
When we went into the station, there was a man laying sprawled out on the floor, and he looked like he’d been there for awhile. We all literally stepped over him with our luggage, and had to get on a narrow fast moving escalator with all eight pieces of our luggage. What a sight that was! Edward said he didn’t know if the man on the floor was dead or drunk, but decided he’d go call the police to come and pick him up. While we waited for him to call, a little babushka came up to us and was begging for food. It’s so sad to see all of the begging in this country…the people are starving everywhere.
We hustled our way onto the train, down the narrow corridor, and into our cabin. We were surprised at how nice the cabin was, complete with four beds and a table. Dan went with Edward to the dinner car to eat, and Mom and I stayed behind and played games on the table.
We laid in our beds talking for awhile and watching the countryside out the window. It was a comfortable sleep except the scary feeling of the train jumping when it changed tracks at bends! We finally got to sleep around 2 or 3 am, and our wake up call was coming at 6 am.
November 26, 2003
6:00 am…lights on! Gather your things and get ready to jump off the train. We arrived in Dnipropetrovs’k shortly before 7 am. As soon as we got off the train, we went to drop our luggage off in a storage room, where someone will watch your things for you while you are out and about in the city. The three of us were a little nervous about this, but Edward assured us it would be safe. Hopefully it will still be there when we get back.
We looked for a place to eat breakfast, but every shop we stopped in told us they were not open yet. When Edward asked when they would be open, they basically said that they didn’t know yet…whenever they felt like opening. Not at all like hours of business in the US! We finally found a little place to buy some fruit and pastries, and ate in a standing European style café area.
After breakfast we started the paper chase to get permission to visit the orphanage in the region (I joke that you need permission to get permission to do anything here). First stop is at the city hall to get city approval. The lady in the office asks us a lot of questions and seems to not like us too much. After the questioning period is over, she signs our papers saying it is okay to visit the regional office for approval. Just as we are about to leave the office, she tells Edward to tell Dan that he looks like Arnold Schwartzenager, and gives Dan a flirty little smile. He told her that he would maybe run for governor someday too, and she thought that was very funny. Dan’s head could barely fit through the door on the way out (ha-ha), and we all had a good laugh at the whole episode. Another life-threatening cab ride to the regional office, and we met with yet another woman. This lady seemed to be very angry, but we weren’t too sure why. She invited us in to sit in front of her desk, then picked up a ringing phone and started shouting at the person on the other end. Since we couldn’t understand a word she was saying, we were very nervous about what she might say to us when she hung up. Edward said she told him that she was having a bad day, and the connection on the phone line was horrible. She didn’t ask us any questions, and signed our papers without incident. We were now free to visit the orphanage.
Outside of the building, our driver was still waiting for us, and took us on a two minute drive to orphanage number one. Excitement and anticipation filled us as we walked into the run-down building. Upon entering, we were surprised at the interior, which was quite different than the outside. It was evident that the workers tried to keep things clean with what little resources they have, and the hallways were all painted in color.
We were told to wait on a couch, and Edward would go to talk to the director. Twenty minutes later (what seemed like hours), he returned to say the director was out of her office until after 3 pm. We needed to speak with her before we could see the child (yet one more level of permission). It was around 12 pm at this time, so we had some time to waste.
We decided that we would find an apartment to stay in for the next day or two. One of the babushkas at the orphanage offered to show us her apartment that was near by. We followed her on a short ten minute walk to an area we would refer to as the slums in the US. The apartment was dirty, there was large barking dog outside the window, and a very rank smell in the air. There was no electricity, so we imagined that the nights would be pretty scary. They tried to sell us on many highlights of the apartment, but close location or not, we just couldn’t see staying there (the girls more than Dan). To top it off, a man with a huge knife came busting through the door shouting something when he saw us walking around in the apartment. Edward explained that he told him he was just cutting some heads off chickens next door, and thought that we broke into the house. The babushka quickly came into the room and told him all was well, and the wild eyed man left. We asked Edward to find us an apartment in the downtown so that we could be convenient to food, shopping, phones, and internet (and far away from the crazy next door neighbor).
After a lot of searching, Edward could not find an apartment in the downtown. We stopped at all the hotels we could find, but everything was booked for the night. Nervousness was setting in, hoping that we would find a place. We stopped by the train station to pick up two days worth of clothing from our luggage, but again left the pieces behind. It was decided that we would eat lunch and return to the orphanage to see if the director was back.
When we returned, she was indeed back, and was up in her office. We waited in the hall for awhile to get in to see her. When we finally went in, she was a very kind lady, and smiled at us a lot. She went over Nadiya’s file with us, and explained the minor medical conditions they had noted during her stay in the orphanage. They were nothing too dramatic in our eyes, and we agreed to see her.
We were led down to her room on the first floor where she stays with her groupa. This is the room where they eat, sleep, and play in. When they opened the door, the worker was holding her in her arms, but she squirmed down to run out the door (all of the children try to run out the door when it is opened). She was so sickly looking--deep rings under her eyes that were filled with saddness. Not strikingly beautiful because of malnourishment, but perfect in our eyes. She came into the small play area, and the director began telling her commands. She followed all directions she was given (things like show me your eyes, mouth, nose; play peek-a-boo; catch the balloon; sit on the bench with your hands folded; come to me, etc.). They gave us about twenty minutes to play with her, and then we would need to go speak with the director to tell her what we thought.
We played with different toys, and she instantly took a liking to Dan. She giggled constantly at him, and loved it when he tickled her. Edward said it was time to go see the director, so we said goodbye to her for the night.
In the director’s office, we told her we would talk about things that night, and come back to see her again in the morning.
We left with mixed emotions, and asked Edward how long it takes to “know” what child you should adopt (based on his past experience). He said that it usually takes 1-3 days to form some sort of bond with a child, and then you will just know if she is right for you or not.
When we went out to meet our driver, Edward said that he had found us an apartment in the downtown, and that we would go to see it. We stayed in the car while he checked it out, and then hiked up the five flights of steps to see it for ourselves. It was not a Sheraton by any means, but was much better than the place we had seen earlier in the day. Without hesitation we took this apartment, and settled down for our first night in Dnipropetrovs’k.
November 27, 2003
Happy Thanksgiving! This was unlike any Thanksgiving we’ve EVER had! No turkey or potatoes, but plenty to be thankful for.
The day started out with a trip to the orphanage to talk to one of the doctors, and have her read Nadiya’s medical charts for us. We were escorted to a small room, where she proceeded to read a book (literally) about this child. She talked in Ukrainian for about an hour, and Edward translated what she had said at the end.
The “short story” she told us was that Nadiya was born at home and taken to the hospital by her mother. Shortly after she arrived there, her mother left, and was never seen again. She spent 7.5 months in the hospital before being sent to the orphanage. During her stay in the hospital and orphanage, she has been healthy except for having a cold one time (good sign that her immunity is strong). Since she has been in both the hospital and the orphanage, no one has come to visit her, or contacted them to find out about her. Overall, this doctor felt that Nadiya is a healthy child, with only minor orphanage delays (that all the children have).
After explaining this, she told Edward that we needed to “get out” of her office because she had another patient to see (did I mention yet that they do not always have the best manners here?). We hurriedly gathered our things and were escorted down the long hall to see Nadiya again.
This time when she came out of the room, she smiled at us as if she recognized us from the night before. We took her on walks up and down the hall (that is the “in” thing to do…and did I mention the ONLY thing to do! Ha-ha). There are twenty other families at the orphanage right not, and some of them are also Americans. We met and chatted with many of them in the hall during our walks this morning, and were SO excited to find some people who speak our language! They would not let us take her outside because they’re afraid of the children catching colds.
It was during this visit that Dan and I looked at each other and said “this is our child.” When Edward came back to get us at the end of the visit, Dan summed up how we felt very well. He said to Edward “I guess I answered my own question from last night. It didn’t take 1-3 days for me to fall in love with her…I only needed twenty more minutes and I love her already!” We told Edward that we were planning to adopt her, and would spend some more time getting to know her.
We stayed for both the morning and evening visits with her today, and then headed back to our apartment to put a few more layers of clothing on. We walked downtown to try to find a pay phone to call home on, and it took us a LONG time to find a phone that our cards would work in. We finally found a hotel where the people in the lobby looked at us like we had three heads when we called people and spoke in English. We had a chance to talk to the boys, and I cried when I heard their voices. It is SO hard being away from them. They are having a great time with Grandma and Grandpa, and do not seem to be as distraught about our absence as we are theirs.
On our walk home, Edward said that the doctor at the orphanage only offered us the “nice” version of Nadiya’s story. He had a copy of the chart back at the apartment, and felt that we should know the details of her beginnings. We were anxious to get back and have him translate it for us, but he said “not before Thanksgiving dinner.” He let us choose where we wanted to eat…and we went to get what every good Thanksgiving dinner must include…Pizza! He took us to this little pizza shop that is supposed to look like a New York style pizzeria. They had American music playing, and the pizza tasted just like home. What a great way to feel connected to America on this day of Thanksgiving!
After another terrifying cab ride home (I know I keep mentioning the driving, but this is so scary that you need to see it to believe it), we settled in to hear what her charts had to say. Short story of what the charts REALLY said…unedited (pieced together through many different reports): Nadiya was born either at home or in the hospital. After her delivery she was taken out of the hospital by her mother, but no one knew where she took her. Four months later, she was dropped off at the hospital by an unknown woman who tells them that she found the baby abandon. The police were sent out to try to find the mother, but she was not at the address she last lived at. The only person there was a man who said he was the husband of this lady, and that he had not seen her since the birth of their child. He claims that he is the father of the child, and he was planning to get his life together, and return for her. HOWEVER, there is a different father listed on the birth certificate, and this father does “not exist in nature” (exact words of Edward). The health department was sent to the “father’s” home for inspection, and they said that the conditions there were too horrible for a child to live in. There were some police reports about the mother, and how she was a drifter—a homeless person who went from place to place finding people to house her.
And that was it…her whole story with many holes. Edward said that we would have to find out who the real father was somehow, who the lady was that dropped her off, and see if we could find the mother. If we go to court and this man shows up, they could deny us the adoption so that he could visit her (even though he has not come to see her in two years, and he would only need to see her once every six months after the court hearing to keep his rights). Again, he was not the man listed on her birth certificate, but we would have to have him agree to DNA testing to prove otherwise if it comes down to it.
We went to bed with a ton of questions going through our heads. Are we attaching to a child that we have no chance of adopting? Will the “father” show up in the end to claim her? By the time we fell asleep, we decided not to worry about the unknown. What will happen will, but ultimately she will be our child, no matter what steps we have to go through to make it happen. We fell asleep knowing that we were going to go ahead with the process, and will take this huge “leap of faith.” We certainly do have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving day!
November 28, 2003
We woke up with a good feeling today; because we were going to see our little Nadiya again, and know with great certainty she is going to be our child. Our driver picked us up to go to the orphanage, and we arrived around 10:00 am. Edward went to speak with the director to ask if we could take her for some doctor’s appointments. She agreed, but we needed to take a worker from the orphanage with us. Since only five people can fit in a car (at the very most), Mom had to stay behind at the orphanage while we went.
Today was the first time we got to see her sit and eat with her groupa, so we were able to take some pictures of her with her friends. When we went into the room and she saw us, she kept trying to get up from her table to come to us. The workers would tell her to sit down and she would do it (the first time they told her!). The children all listen very well to the workers and you can tell that they they have strict discipline. When she was finally able to get up, she jumped up and ran right past us! She wanted to go walking in the hall, because this is the only time she ever gets to leave her room. After about an hour of walking with her, they told us we needed to bring her back to her room to get dressed to go. Dan walked her down the hallway, and she started to cry when she realized we were taking her back to her room. They dressed her in several layers of clothing (tights with a skirt and pants over them both, undershirt, shirt, sweater, hat, coat, hood, and winter boots), but it was about 50 degrees outside)! An orphanage worker brought her out, and we all go in the car for the appointments.
The car ride was interesting; because it was the first time she’d ever been in a car. She sat on my lap in the back seat (without a seatbelt on either of us), and looked out the window the whole time. She giggled and pointed out the window most of the time, then tried to fall asleep (we were not aloud to let her fall asleep so that she would be in her natural state for the psychologist). Edward was amazed at how good she was during the ride, and said that most children scream their first time in the car.
We arrived at the psychologist, and took her inside for testing. The doctor was very nice, and after about a half an hour of talking in Ukrainian to each other, they let Dan and I in on what they were saying. The doctor felt that she is a normal child with some mental delays. She does not feel that these delays are because of birth, but because of the life she has led so far. She thinks with special therapy, good nutrition, and lots of love, Nadiya could be a very healthy child. She recommended we take her to see a neurologist for further consultation. We said thank you and paid her $50.00.
Next stop was at the neurologist’s office. During our wait to see the doctor, we found out that Nadiya throws tantrums. She sits down on the floor and throws her head back against the floor, then laughs hysterically! She did this on the hard concrete floor at the office, and we flew out the chair to try to catch her head from hitting the floor. The orphanage worker did not seem to mind this, but we were very nervous because she kept doing it. She was throwing these tantrums because she wanted to take her boots off (she doesn’t like to have her shoes on…possibly because they are two sizes too big), and we would not let her.
Inside the neurologists, she did a very thorough exam on Nadiya. She concluded that Nadiya was fine neurologically, but she did see some indications of rickets, anemia, muscle atrophy, and slight physical/mental delay. She, too, said that her condition was because of the life she had led thus far, and not from being born this way. She agreed with the psychologist and said that Nadiya could be a healthy child with good nutrition, therapy, and lots of love. She thinks that Nadiya is at about a one year old level mentally (so she is about a year behind). There is a medication kids can take before the age of three to catch their brains up to where they should be. She suggested that we take her for genetic testing while we are here to determine how much medicine she will need. We tried to pay her $50.00 before leaving, but she would not take any money from us. She said (in Ukrainian of course), “I can do this for free if I want to.” Such a nice gesture from someone that we know could use the money.
We headed back to the orphanage, and Nadiya fell asleep in the car. Dan carried her in asleep, and we left for lunch (visiting hours at the orphanage are 10-12 and 4-7). Our driver took us back to the women’s hospital cafeteria for the third day in a row, and they were happy to see us come back again. At lunch, we told Edward that we had decided to put in a petition to adopt Nadiya.
After we finished lunch, we went to a notary to have a petition drawn up and signed. The notary was very friendly, and wished us good luck with everything.
When we got back to the orphanage, I went down to get Nadiya from her room. They opened the door and she ran to me with open arms giving me a giant hug. I was so happy because this is the first time I’ve received such a warm reaction from her. I took her down the hall, and we all took turns walking with her until 7 pm. Dan walked down to the market and bought her some yogurt and juice. She spent most of the time we were with her eating and drinking like she had never seen food before. She drank the yogurt right down, and then carried the container around with her the rest of the night. She kept tipping it up trying to get more out of it. At 7 pm, dinner was ready, and the workers came out into the hall to tell her it was time to eat, and to say goodbye to “mamma y papa.” She started shaking and crying and threw herself down onto the floor again (I caught her head this time!). She didn’t want to go back, and waved to us with big sad tear filled eyes.
On the way home, we stopped at a grocery store to find some food for the apartment, and more snacks to take Nadiya the next day. The grocery store was packed with people. They only give out baskets (no carts) because people do not have the money to buy a lot of food at once. We had three overflowing baskets on the way to the register, and received many strange looks. Our groceries totaled $30.00 (they would have easily been over $100 in the US). On the way out of the store, we put a bunch of money in an old ladies cup that was begging. She looked at the money, got a big smile, and got up to go home for the night. It made us feel good to let her go home, and to know that such a small amount to us made such a big difference to her.
Before coming back to the apartment, we stopped at the train station to pick up the rest of our luggage that was still there. We had prepaid the flat host $28 a night for the next two weeks, so we knew that we weren’t going anywhere for awhile.
When we got back, we carried our groceries and luggage up the five flights of stairs to the apartment, then unpacked all of our things. Mom made what we thought was ravioli for us, but turned out to be cottage cheese inside pasta (and we had put tomato sauce on it). Our facilitator would not even try it, so we knew it must have been bad. One bite from each of us, and we all lost our appetite. We decided on no dinner, and to just eat bread and Pepsi instead. We watched a movie on the computer late night, talked to the boys and Dad on the phone then went to bed. Time to rest up for another busy day!
November 29, 2003
I sit here late at night unsure of how to even start this journal entry. I recently got off the phone with Tiffany’s sister and her husband. It was great to hear from them but I felt bad that Tiffany and Momma Sue could not talk as they both took sleeping pills to help them sleep and would not have made much sense if I was to try to wake them. I am emotionally overwhelmed by everything I have encountered thus far. We have all seen, heard, tasted, touched, and smelled so much here in Ukraine and we are all incredibly humbled by our good and bad experiences. In the taxi tonight Tiffany and mom talked about how they would clean house to get rid of things they don’t need when they returned to the US. It is one thing to read about another culture in a book or to see a video about the way the rest of the world lives, but it is an entirely different perspective when you live within the book or video. This part of the world is so unbelievably different from the world we live in! It is different on so many levels and I will be forever indebted to Edward our facilitator for helping us all to understand Ukraine better. Humbled is the word I will use to describe my experiences to date, but humbled is not a strong enough word to describe what I have been able to gain from my life changing trip. The USA is certainly lucky for everything it has and I pray our country will never forget how truly lucky we are. Guilt and sadness run thru my veins when I sit in the Ukraine with a laptop journaling my adventures. This laptop most likely costs more than two families’ yearly incomes in Ukraine. Tonight we all sat with an internet prepaid card and read e-mails from our friends and family that made us laugh and cry. For families in the Ukraine this would be the best of dreams and for some may not even be within the realm of dreams. I pray I will never again take for granted the amazing life I have and the friendships I have gained. If I could say one thing to all those I know this Sunday morning I would say be thankful for everything you have in life, appreciate life and I would like to thank god for such a eye opening experience.
In the morning today we slept until 10 AM Ukrainian time and then prepared the crew for a trip to the public market so we could buy some things for Nadiya and the orphanage. After converting some US money into Grevna ($350 USD translates into $1865 Grevna) it was into a taxi for a ride to the market. Not too much different then a taxi ride in NY City if you count the wrong way on the one way street, and the occasional sidewalks as fair game during the ride, they are pretty comparable. The big difference is the taxi drivers are usually pleasant and will even wait outside for you if you would like to go inside for a bite to eat at a restaurant. You come out from eating and there is your taxi driver waiting for you. We bought a toilet seat of all things at the market for the toilet at the orphanage. They did not have one and the girls just seem to think that is one of the modern western amenities they cannot go without, not to mention the orphanage could really use the seat. Additionally we bought some warm socks and slippers for Nadiya to wear. Prices are amazingly cheap here for most things but clothes are not grossly different then back in the states, only a few clothing items are much cheaper. So we packed up after about four solid hours of shopping it was off to the orphanage to see our little princess.
We arrived at the orphanage at 4 PM and had only a little more than an hour to visit with her. Once we got to the door leading to her groupa, we called out her name and she came running with a smile to die for. It was off to the hallway area for more play time and of course some food we brought for her. Yogurt has become a huge hit with Nadiya and she still eats like it is going to be her last meal. It makes your heart cry to see the kids so hungry. We watch her closely to ensure she does not choke from eating too quickly. She absolutely becomes more precious and cute every time I see her but I am sort of bias. I am not sure if it is my imagination working against me or the little bit of extra nutrition she has received over the past few days but she seems to be looking stronger already. Each day we all seem to think she looks different and the large rings under her eyes seem to be clearing up nicely.
November 30, 2003
- One week in Ukraine -
We got a late start this morning, and did not make it to the 10-12 visiting hours to see Nadiya. Edward lit the gas water heater that is on the wall in our kitchen, and our apartment filled with smoke. He called the flat host, and he said that he’d come to take a look at it.
Dan and Edward stayed behind to wait for him while Mom and I went out shopping. Edward and Dan get along SO well! For those of you who know Dan’s amazing positive attitude, and cult-like following of Anthony Robbins…you will appreciate what I am saying when I tell you that Edward is the Ukrainian version of Dan! They talk for hours about everything, and see eye to eye on just about every topic.
We traced Nadiya’s foot the other day, and went in search of shoes for her. The shoes that she now wears are two sizes too big, and she doesn’t like to have them on. She thinks it is a fun game to kick them off, and we have a hard time convincing her that she needs to wear them. The shoe stores are really odd because they put their entire inventory sitting out on the shelf, and there are no shoes “in back”. So, every style of shoe only has one or two pairs available. It was very difficult to find a style that I liked, and that was in her size. We found two pair that we hope fit her (a pair of regular shoes and a pair of “house shoes” that they need to wear at night).
Along the way we stopped at a toy shop to buy her a pull toy to pull around the orphanage. During our visits, all of the families spend most of their time walking up and down the halls, so it is fun for the kids to have something to pull. We also went to an open air market where we bought a few small gifts, and a very old man was “flirting” with Mom telling her she looked like my sister.
A quick stop at McDonald’s (I never thought I would consider this luxury food), and we were on our way back to the apartment. Mom hasn’t been feeling well all day. She has what Dan refers to as the “stomach monster.” We think it is from a salad she ate last night because it was the only food she ate that we didn’t, and none of us are sick.
We went to the orphanage again tonight, and as always, spent the first hour feeding her. She is always SO hungry! When you give her food, she holds onto it and will not let go. She’ll have a cracker in each hand and try to figure out a way to get into your bags to take more. She would eat non-stop and make herself sick if we let her.
After our visit, we came home and relaxed. Mom fell asleep on the couch early tonight (she looks pretty white), and Dan and I worked on the computer (ahhh…to finally have internet!)
DECEMBER 1, 2003
We woke up early this morning because we needed to go meet with the city inspector again. After you do any piece of paperwork, you need to take it to her. I’m not sure why you can’t just take them after you’ve gathered them all…guess they’ve never heard of the concept of “work smarter not harder!”
When we got to her office, she was in a horrible mood. Monday is not the day of choice to see any of the government officials here (similar to USA). She told Edward that she would not sign off on our papers up to this point until we found out some more details surrounding the police reports (who the father is, who the lady that dropped her off was, where she was from the time she left the hospital until four months later when she was found, where she was found, etc.).
We got back into our taxi, and Edward told us that he would drop Mom and I have at the orphanage for the morning visit, and he and Dan would go to talk to the police to find out more about the report. He said that he didn’t have anything against women, but that “they do not belong in leadership position.” Those of you who know me well can guess that this did not set well with me! However, I did not say a word because I am well aware of how women are regarded here. We would rather see Nadiya then go to the police station anyhow!
As I watched the car pull out of the orphanage with Dan in it, I have to admit I was a little nervous, but I knew that Edward would not let anything happen to him. If we have learned one thing since we’ve been here, it is about the corrupt police. We were told not to call the police unless basically you see someone being killed, or are being killed yourself…otherwise you should try to take care of things on your own. The police are not your friends here. They are paid very little and expected to make up the difference in their salary through bribes. For example, if you were to go up to an officer on the street (they are all over) and ask him for directions, he would ask to see your passport. If you gave it to him, he would make you pay him a lot of money to return it to you. You are in a foreign country and can’t get home without it, so what are you to do? Of course, pay it. So, we have been avoiding the police all together. If we see one, we try to walk the other way, and hope that they will not notice that we are Americans. When we were in Kyiv last week, there was a domestic dispute happening at the next door apartment. It’s sad, but we knew we couldn’t call the police about it, so we just tried to ignore it. What a strange way of life!
Our visit with Nadiya was wonderful. She was so excited to see me come to the door to get her, and we played for the whole two hour visit. I finally taught her how to play catch with a ball. Two days before we handed her the ball, and she looked at it like it was the most foreign object she’d ever seen! I fed her the normal—yogurt, biscuits (like crackers), a banana, and some juice. At the end of the visit, the orphanage yelled at me in Ukrainian because she had dropped some food on her sweater. Oh well, I thought, if that is the biggest of her worries, life is not too bad.
Mom and I walked about a mile to the nearest grocery store to find some food for lunch. We bought some bread and coke (Mom’s tummy is still not 100%), plus some food for our apartment. The grocery stores do not give out bags to carry your items in, so you need to be very selective when shopping. Whatever you buy, you carry! We’ve been bringing some over the shoulder bags with us everywhere for shopping.
Back at the orphanage we had a little “bread and coke” picnic on a cement slab outside. This was the first day the sun has been out since we’ve been here, so we wanted to soak it up. We watched a lot of mothers walk by with their babies in carriages (the old style that used to be popular in America during the 50’s), and the strangest wild dogs you’ve ever seen were all around us (many breeds of dog went into making these special animals). The dogs beg at the orphanage door for food…I don’t think that they’ve figured out that the orphanage is probably the worst place to beg for food!
Dan and Edward did not return all day, and we waited on a couch in the orphanage for three hours until the next visiting time. All day they brought baby after baby by us (it was medical check-up day in the orphanage), and we could not believe how many children are living in her building. My mind kept drifting back to the guys…I could not imagine what was taking them so long, and I was a little nervous.
Shortly after I took Nadiya out of her room, Dan came around the corner to say that they had a very busy day, but had accomplished a lot. They drove to the police station across town to speak with the chief and the detective that was listed on the police paperwork surrounding this case.
At the police station, Dan waited down a long hall while Edward went in to talk with the chief and investigating detectives. While sitting in the hall alone, many detectives kept walking by saying things to him. He just kept saying that he only spoke English, and they would go on their way. After about an hour and half of this, one of the detectives came out and motioned to him to follow him into a room. At this point, Edward had followed the chief downstairs, so Dan was all on his own! When he went into the room, there were three police officers in there who were not too happy with his “I only speak English” phrase, and were trying to communicate to him in Ukrainian. They took out a piece of paper and began writing in Ukrainian to him, and he again told him that he did not understand the language. They were starting to get frustrated (and Dan was getting a little nervous after all we’ve heard about the police here). Dan just kept saying “I’m with Edward”, hoping that they would understand. Finally, one of the officers got up from the table and went out of the door. A few minutes later, to Dan’s relief, Edward appeared in the door to explain that Dan was his friend, and they were working on a case with the chief. All of the detectives shared a chuckle at Dan’s expense over the whole situation, and then they let him go. Edward later told Dan that when they came to find him, they said that they “had an American in custody upstairs, and could he come up and translate why he was there” (this is before they knew that he was there with him).
Some good things did come out of this experience! The detective who first tried to find Nadiya’s mother two years ago agreed to go along with them in the cab. He told them that they had the address of the lady who dropped the child off at the orphanage, and that it was Nadiya’s grandmother. They drove to the apartment she spent her first four months of life in. Upon arrival, they discovered that the Grandmother just died three months ago, but they were able to get reports from her neighbors, who said that the mother had disappeared after the baby was born, leaving the grandmother to take care of the baby. They confirmed that it was the grandmother that had dropped her off, which in the eyes of “the law” was her legal guardian since the mother (or father) was not around. This was great news because it means that she was legally released by a guardian, so on our court date, the judge will probably not raise questions about this now. After a full day of paper chasing, and several more pieces of paperwork being generated, the detective wrote up a great report for us to take to court with us. It basically says that she is considered an abandoned child, and her mother and father’s whereabouts are unknown. This document will help us tremendously!
Before coming back to the orphanage, they had to stop by the police station one more time to drop the detective off. Edward went inside while Dan waited out in the car with our driver (who doesn’t speak English). While they were sitting there, a man and woman came out and started to fight. The fight escalated, and the man punched the woman right in the face! The driver honked his horn, and they stopped. Dan was not sure if this man was a police officer or not, so he decided not to jump the guy for doing this to her.
We spent more time with Nadiya during evening visiting hours, and then returned back to the apartment. Edward and Dan shared a bottle of wine and talked for hours while I updated our website and Mom slept (she’s feeling a little better now).
Tomorrow Edward is going to collect the remaining pieces of our paperwork to submit for council at their Wednesday meeting. Hopefully by the end of this week we will know a little more about when our court date might be.
December 2, 2003
It was not an early morning today after splitting an entire bottle of wine with Edward last night. I slept great! Edward is a bit more of the heavy weight with the wine, and he was up much earlier doing paperwork and taking care of some loose ends. Edward ensured all the papers were in order for the city inspector to create a misleading document called the conclusion document. The conclusion is a document which must be created by the city inspector in order to move into the next square on the big adoption game board. Imagine more paperwork--how shocking! All of us feel like we are on a game show and the main objective is to create more paperwork. You are not allowed to move to the next square until you get the next important piece of paperwork officially signed and stamped. However we are smarter players in this game now and refuse to be fooled by the name of this new document; it is not really the conclusion. You see, the conclusion would mean you are done right? No such luck this paperwork needs to be signed off by the city council adoption approval board, and then and only then can you move another square to have a court hearing scheduled which I am certain will need yet more paperwork. For those of you who have taken out a mortgage in the states my analogy would be to imagine the paperwork for ten or more mortgage closings.
Since Edward was out this morning we could not go to the orphanage (we have NO idea how to tell the driver how to get there). Instead we slept in late (at least I did post wine) and then we wrote out some postcards. After this we updated our journal and went out to the downtown area for a late lunch. I am really enjoying the uninterrupted time here that I don’t often have back home! I find that I really had forgot what it feels like to be WEL (Without Electronic Leash in case you are stumped) again. No cell phone, no pager, and no radio, and no multiple problems on a daily basis continue to be quite relaxing for me. The stress in the Ukraine is a different type of stress for me. I stress over the sad sights and people who have seemingly forgotten how to smile in this country. As Edward says he would like to see just one day in the Ukraine set aside for everyone to just smile. I of course think this is a brilliant idea and yesterday at the police department when I was brought into the office, I just kept smiling and I am quite certain those officers didn’t even know what to do with me. They must have believed I was a crazy American on drugs. Oh well! I try to smile more than my everyday self if this is even possible, hoping that one or two Ukrainians will smile back. Thus far I have had a few smiles back (most rewarding was the 3 homeless kids which we bought McDonalds cheeseburgers), so I will hope for a few more smiles before I must depart.
After lunch (did I mention they have really small portions in Ukraine) we met back up with Edward and took a fun ride (as they all are) towards the orphanage. First we needed to stop at the city records building in hopes of getting a copy of the grandmother’s death certificate. This important piece of paperwork was not available due to the long lines at city records so it was off to the orphanage. Nadiya was sitting quietly with her groupa for an afternoon snack as we arrived at her room. Once official permission was granted she was up from the table and into our arms. We started off our visit with some food of course, but Nadiya seemed to be a little under the weather tonight. She was dressed in her normal layer after layer of clothing and was probably hot on top of not feeling well. After about an hour she seemed to feel a bit better so we played dress up with mommy’s hat and scarf. This was quite the photo opportunity for me. While we played Edward again met with the city inspector to go over the conclusion documents she had prepared. All looks good according to Edward and we will pray for the meeting of the city council adoption approval board to go well. We are all hopeful this adoption board meeting will occur tomorrow.
Once we returned to the apartment Edward had to suddenly leave to go meet with his wife who is in the same region helping another couple adopt a child. We cooked while he was out and then enjoyed reading e-mails together and updating our website before going to bed. We love to hear from everyone back in the states on e-mail. We hope that they will keep coming in and we are so thankful for those we have already received. Congrats to the Hopkins, the Zito, and the Nich families on the birth of their babies while we are gone, it is nice to hear such great news! DSB
December 3, 2003
We woke up this morning to Mom feeling more ill than she had the day before. Her color looked horrible, and she decided that she would just hang out at the apartment and sleep. I ran down to the local store to buy her some bananas and bottled water for the day. Before we left, we set up the computer so that she could watch some DVD's (we brought about 30 of them, and they have been a lifesaver...after awhile you don't care what the movie is about, as long as it's in English).
Our driver met us early to take us to the inspectors office AGAIN. She keeps telling us to come back the next day, and the paperwork will be signed. After we stopped at her office, we got dropped off at the orphanage, and Edward went to try to do some more police paperwork (I can't even begin to tell you how many times we've heard the word "paperwork" over the past week and a half).
Upon pulling into the orphanage, we saw a lot of the parents outside with their children, bundled up as could be! The children are always dressed in SO many clothes! Each time we go to pick Nadiya up in her room, she has on 4-5 shirts, a pair of tights, and a skirt or dress...then we need to put a pair of pants over her tights and dress if we plan to walk her in the hallways. She is always SO hot! They have some very strange ideas of how children will get sick. If they don't have the "necessary" 4-5 layers of clothing on, they will get sick--or if they sit on the floor to play, they will surely be sick (you get yelled at for letting them sit on the floor to play)--if your child his thin hair, don't even think that you will ever see him/her without a hat on at all times while indoors! Since this is the first time they've let the children go outside in the past week, we decided we would take advantage of the situation. After about twenty minutes of bundling by the caretaker, she was ready to go (and sweating)!
Outside, she didn't quite know what to do with herself. You can tell that they do not get to go outside too often because she was looking at everything with such wonder. We walked up and down an uneven sidewalk for about a half an hour, and she probably fell ten times. The winter boots she has are two sizes too big, and she can not keep herself balanced in them. She was getting really frustrated, so we decided to take her back inside where the ground is a little more even, and she is aloud to wear the pair of shoes we bought her that actually fit. Just as we got to the stairs to go inside, she tripped and hit her head on a cement step. The noise was so loud, and Dan and I both gasped-kind-of-screamed out loud. Her head instantly got a huge goose egg, and it's the first time that we've really heard her cry. We felt horrible, and spent the rest of the visit indoors holding her (and hoping that her bump would to down before we had to take her back--we didn't want them to think that we are bad parents).
We went to the same women's hospital that we go to every day for lunch. It is a quaint little place with all homemade food (well, sort of homemade--not the type I make in my home, but I'm sure there may be some homes out there that this is made in! ha-ha.) As always, vegetarian food was not a big staple on the daily carnivorous menu. I settled for some bread, fried cottage cheese and tea (if you close your eyes and hold your nose, it almost tastes just like Papa John's Pizza! ha-ha. I have honed such great imagination skills here).
After lunch we went back to the police station (which is on the other side of town) to get the same report we've been trying to get for two days now. They told us to come back after five because the officer was going to "be absent" until then. A few more stops at more council and inspector offices, and we were back at the orphanage for the evening visit.
Nadiya was in a much better mood tonight. She has been feeling under the weather with a cold (all of the kids have it), but it seemed like her nap today really helped her. We had a fun visit as always, and she was sad to see us go. You can see her attaching a little more to us each day.
When we got back to the apartment, Mom was still sick, and we are really worried about her. She started her Cipro prescription today that she brought from home, so we are hoping it helps. She is very weak, and cannot eat a thing. Anyone who knows my Mom, knows that she masks pain pretty well (for example: three years ago one of her legs was twice the size of the other leg, and she didn't want to go to the hospital. Once Dad made her, she found out that she had a blood clot from her ankle to her hip). So, for her to say that she feels very sick should be taken seriously.
At around midnight tonight, Dan stayed with Mom, and Edward and I hiked out to find a pharmacy. We were in search of something to take the intense stomach pain away. I was amazed that the pharmacy's that are closed at night will have someone come to the door if you ring the bell. Most of the lights in the pharmacy are off, and they appear out of nowhere at this tiny window to help you. The woman gave us some "magic powder" (I will just call it that because I have NO idea what the package says, or what she told me it was in Ukrainian), that you mix with water, and it is supposed to help with the pain. The pharmacist thinks Mom may have salmonella poisoning from all of the symptoms we told her. If this is the case, all of the medicine she is taking will not help her. She will need to go to the hospital to get a special medicine that is geared towards salmonella.
When we got back, we were surprised that Mom didn't put up a fight and drank her medicine right down. We discussed the going to the hospital idea, but of course, she is against it. To tell you the truth, I am a little nervous about her going there, too. The other day when they took blood from Nadiya, we asked if they use clean needles. The response we got was "they are supposed to, but sometimes they just boil them clean instead." Yikes! I don't want her getting stuck with any needles unless absolutely necessary, and if it comes down to it, I will make them show me as they take it out of the original packaging. I'm thinking a little too far in advance, and it is very late. I guess we will just have to wait and see what tomorrow holds!
December 4, 2003
Mom woke up sick again today. We talked about going to the hospital, and she said that she'd wait to see how she felt around noon. She's feeling a little better now, but what worries us is her intense weakness (Edward has had salmonella poisoning before, and he is very intent on her getting some additional help). We stayed home with her this morning and did some more laundry in the tub (I feel like writing a thank you note to my home washing machine for all the times I took it for granted). I don't think that I will ever complain about doing laundry again! The water here has a gray tint to it, so your clothes look worse after you wash them then before (but at least you can hope that it is getting some of the dirt out).
Mom fell asleep, so Dan and I went out to the store to get some small things for the apartment, and buy a sweater for Nadiya. When we got back, Edward called from his cell phone to say that he was on his way back to the apartment, and he wanted to have Mom taken by ambulance when he arrived (you have to call early because--you EMS people will love this--it can take the ambulance over an hour to get here!). Mom said no...Edward said yes...Mom said no again...and I said "Edward, we'll talk about this when you get here." She said that she is feeling a little better now, but still has the weakness. She wants to give it one more day, and if she is not feeling better, than she'll consider going to get help tomorrow. She finally ate a little something tonight, so that is a good sign.
We only got to see Nadiya for about 45 minutes tonight. Our driver was two hours late picking us up, so it really cut our visit short. She was in good spirits, and as always, ate all of the munchies we brought her. When we took her back into her room tonight, she was blowing us kisses and smiling.
We cooked dinner at home tonight and watched "Bourne Identity." After the movie, we had a long talk with Edward about the difficulties we may face with the judges in this region. We are in the toughest region of Ukraine to adopt from (if we had a choice we would have never picked this region, but it's where our referral was at. Good thing or we wouldn't have met our Nadiya...everything happens for a reason). The judges are very inflexible, and almost never waive the 30 day waiting period (which means we will probably have to come back to pick her up in January).
We have to admit the trip is starting to take its toll on us. We are very homesick and miss our boys so much. Stressful news like this is not easy to deal with, but we are doing our best to keep our chin up. We just constantly remind ourselves of the little girl who now knows us as "mamma y pappa", and know that we will make it through it all for her.
December 5, 2003
Mama Sue has made a full recovery and felt almost 100% in the morning today. She stayed home as a precaution just in case the stomach monsters returned to haunt her one last time. Luckily this didn’t occur and mom was able to eat real food again by the evening. Tiffany and I left earlier in the morning with Edward. Our driver dropped Tiff and I off at the orphanage and Edward off at the city inspector’s office. We made our morning visit to Nadiya who was in a great mood. Later on Edward caught up with us towards the end of our morning visit. He was impressed with how much Nadiya had changed in just over one week’s time and told us just how well she is doing in his mind and how much happier she appeared to be. He stated, “Orphanage children usually don’t do this well this quick” and Tiffany and I felt so encouraged and happy with his added commentary.
Edward told us that he had just spoken with the chief orphanage director about Nadiya’s blood work, and that it had all come back negative! All children have to be tested for AIDS and Hepatitis A, B, and C. We were on cloud nine with the healthy report, and nothing (even this horrible paperwork trail) could spoil our mood.
After telling us about his morning, Edward said that he would have our driver return us to the apartment while he stayed behind to meet with the city inspector. The daily goal today was getting the signed conclusion paperwork (remember the misleading document I spoke about in an earlier entry on December 2nd) back from the inspector. I know it is shocking news but once again the paperwork was not available in the morning. Edward would stay and try again after lunch. He stayed and we returned home and checked on mom who was feeling good. Tiff and I then walked down to our favorite place, a wonderful palace in the distance called McDonalds. What a great idea it was to put McDonalds in this country. Unfortunately, mom had to stay behind because we only have one key to our apartment and we had forgotten to get it back from Edward before we left him with the city inspector. Mom was not too distressed because she was already well into disk 2 of The Color Purple when we returned.
Just before 4PM Edward returned looking as if he was just kicked by a horse. The inspector had created another hoop for him to jump through (shocking I know). She instructed him to get yet another document. This was super frustrating as the inspector already had this exact document in her possession. A copy of this document has been in her possession since December 2nd when the inspector received the entire paperwork packet from us. The document in question had an original city seal, but was a photo copy and it just wasn’t good enough to meet the high bureaucratic standards of this region. The inspector was unwilling to accept the photo copy of this document with a city seal, she insisted on another original. Without a new original the completion paperwork would not get signed. Did I happen to mention yet that I Love America! Edward was able to quickly obtain the “super important” document and took it right back to the city inspector. By now it was early afternoon and the inspector told him since it was Friday it was just too late in the day (2PM) to get all the necessary signatures and instructed him to come again on Monday. The signed paperwork will surely be ready in the morning on Monday (brief pause for a moment of prayer). For the first time during my visit to Ukraine I have seen Edward become slightly discouraged and he says that on Monday morning he will go to get the paperwork hopefully (we have learned nothing is for certain in Ukraine until it actually occurs) and put it on an airplane back to Kyiv if needed. All of us talked at length about the whole process and how backwards the Ukrainian system really is. We discussed the potential timetable and what to expect if the conclusion paperwork is indeed ready. If the conclusion is ready Monday morning, the paperwork will be on board the morning plane and will make it to the NAC (National Adoption Center) in the afternoon. Completion by the NAC takes about two or three days and with any luck the paperwork will be on the way back next Wednesday at the latest. Just as soon as we get the papers back we present them to the court. Then and only then can a hearing date be scheduled. If the judge has any mercy (not too likely, but I will smile a lot) I will meet with the judge late next week and Tiffany will get a power of attorney for me and then meet with the judge the following week to complete the process. If not we will break out the dry erase board and figure it out as it the process unfolds. Should we not have a favorable outcome next week the most likely scenario would be a brief return flight for me back to meet with the judge. Crazy stuff and we will just have to wait and see how it goes.
In the evening Mom, Tiffany and I returned to the orphanage to be with our cute little girl while Edward stayed back to work on the translation of paperwork for the courts. Little baby Mia--what we've decided to change her name to--was still very happy in the evening and mom was so happy to see her again after a few days away. We played with sensation blocks and the rings, and she impressed us all not just with her appetite tonight. Besides not knowing English and typical delays from orphanage life we are not too concerned about our little princess and how she will be able to learn. She picks up quickly on things, has a well developed personality, and the best belly laugh you could ever ask for. It was a great night with her.
After coming home we found Edward cooking the girls favorite meal (besides McDonalds of course) consisting of mashed potatoes. Everyone ate them and they actually tasted as good as back home. Edward then got on his computer to write some e-mails to people in the states while the three of us had an intense UNO game. I lost in a big way and the game lasted late into the night. We quickly went online to read e-mails and update the web site. Every night we guess how many e-mails we will have and make a little guessing game out of it (can you tell that we have a lack of entertainment?). It has become a nightly ritual to check e-mails before bed and we love to read from people back home. Signing off! DSB
December 6, 2003
We woke up early today so that we could make the morning visit to the orphanage. As the girls took their cold showers, Edward and I had coffee and re-warmed mashed potatoes for breakfast. The whole process of re-warming food takes much longer here since microwaves are considered a luxury item and we don’t have one available to us.
Edward wanted to continue working on translating our paperwork for the court petition, so he stayed back at the apartment. Our driver picked us up and as always Edward needed to tell him what time to come back (our driver does not speak ANY English) for us at the orphanage. Many other couples were visiting their children in the morning today. The mood was one of exhaustion for all of the couples and we collectively decided to plan a dinner date together. Tonight seemed like as good a night as any other, and Tiffany and I volunteered to be in charge of a restaurant search. Since we have no idea where a good place to eat is, we decided on a restaurant that we had ordered pizza from a few nights earlier.
Nadiya-Mia was in a great mood during our morning and evening visits today. She played with her ball, and is becoming a master with her stackable rings. She was flirting with another little boy in her groupa that is currently being adopted. There are a total of four children (including Nadiya) leaving her groupa soon. We hope to stay in touch with these families to watch all of the children grow.
Today we talked with the other three parents from the groupa who are adopting, and decided on some gifts of appreciation for the workers and other children left behind. The workers said that they would love to have an artificial decorated Christmas tree for the kids, and also a new television for them to watch videos on. In addition to these items, we plan to give the workers each a little money instead of gifts (they could all really use it).
After leaving Nadiya for the night, Edward took us by a large grocery store to buy some wine for dinner. We were surprised that you are aloud to bring your own alcohol into any restaurant here, and decided that four bottles would be just right for the group.
We arrived at the restaurant to find two American families already waiting for us, and we were later joined by one French couple. The restaurant was a little scary from the outside, but was surprisingly modern and clean on the inside. The conversation was great, and we had one of the best times we’ve had on this trip so far. We all learned a lot about each other, and made some new life-long friends. Most intriguing to me was the French couple and the stories they told about back home. We talked about September 11th, and how their nation cried along with ours, and many other topics. It was incredible…a night we will never forget! DSB
December 7, 2003
- TWO WEEKS IN UKRAINE -
Today we decided to sleep in and skip the morning visit. We’ve stayed up late several times in the past week, and it’s been catching up with us. You know that it’s bad when you fall into a deep sleep during a death-defying twenty minute taxi ride to the orphanage (that’s what happened to all three of us two nights ago). It was around 11:00 am before any of us rolled out of bed today, and it felt great to get some rest.
Mom and I decided we would walk down to the local small grocery store to pick up some food for the apartment. In passing, mom said that she wished we could go to the huge grocery store we had seen the night before. Next thing we knew, Edward had a taxi at the apartment waiting to take us to that store! He told us that he wanted us to go and enjoy our day at the market.
Dan and Edward stayed behind to work on their computers, so mom and I were on our own. Before we left, Edward arranged with the driver to take us to the store, wait outside for us for one hour, and then stop at McDonald’s for us on the way home. Dan told me he had 1,000 gryvna (pronounced grieve – na)(FYI--equals about $200 US dollars) and gave me his wallet for the trip to the store.
The taxi driver did not speak one word of English, and he almost killed us two times on the way to the store. Drivers here cut each other off on the road so often that no one bothers to honk. So, if you do get a honk, you better brace for impact! Fortunately for us, the oncoming drivers in both instances were thwarted to the nearest sidewalk or trolley lane, so we avoided any serious problems. After being here for a month watching the driving, no one will want to ride with me in the van when I get back! Situations that I once considered “close calls” in the United States will not worry me one bit.
We pulled up to the store, called “Billa”, and were so excited to see that it looked like a Wegmans (from the outside anyway). We had to pay for a cart by putting 50 cents into the handle, and were on our way to do some big shopping. The inside of the store resembled much of what we had seen at other stores, but had a better selection than we’ve been used to. As with custom, all food on the shelves was expired, so we picked through to find the least expired items! You know that it’s getting bad when you find a product that is only two months expired, and you scream JACKPOT! One of the things on our list to get for Dan was a dozen eggs. However, when I went to the dairy section, the newest eggs I could find had expired on June 11, 2003! Needless to say, Dan is eggless. He also asked for bacon…but don’t even get me started on what I found (he is also baconless tonight). Poor Dan lost out on his whole grocery list because I could not find anything I would want him to eat (nor would many health departments if they saw it). After grocery shopping, I have a little better grasp on why the average Ukrainian life span is only 56 years old!
My watch battery died the other day, and mom and I were not watching the time. When we finally looked at the time, two hours had passed! We were supposed to meet the driver outside, and were a little nervous whether he would wait for us or not. We hurriedly went to check out with our huge cart of goods. Most grocery stores in Ukraine do not have shopping carts (only baskets) because people cannot afford to buy a lot of food at one time. When we came wheeling up to the line with this large cart of things, we got lots of attention from other shoppers, the cashier, and even the security guard came over to check out what we were buying. Mom went through the line first with her things, and then it was my turn. When they rang up my groceries, the total came to 474 gryvna. No problem, I thought…Dan said he had 1,000 gryvna…however, he did leave out an important detail. He did have 1,000 gryvna, but only put about 250 of it in the wallet to go to the store with me! I was mortified as I dug through every pocket in my coat and pants, looking for any additional money I could find. Before we left the apartment this morning, mom said that she needed to change in some more American money, but Dan told her that he was sending plenty with me, and that she wouldn’t have to worry about doing that. So, she was wildly digging through her pockets, too, pulling out fives and tens from here and there, and we were both getting really nervous. The cashier just kept repeating herself in Ukrainian, and seemed to totally ignore me when I told her I only spoke English. We finally pulled together 474 gryvna, and only had 2 gryvna left between the two of us (about 40 cents American). The cashier called security over to help count the money, and they finally let us leave with our groceries.
Once outside, we realized that the driver was going to take us to McDonald’s for lunch on the way home, and we only had 2 gryvna! However, we did not know how to tell him not to go there, and had no way to call Edward to explain it to him. Luckily there was a money exchange place right outside of the store, and mom found 15 American dollars in her coat pocket (neither of us had our money belts on because we left them home with Dan for safekeeping). While she waited in line to exchange her money, people were cutting in front of her, so I didn’t know how long this task might take. I told her that I would go to put the groceries in the back of the taxi while she stood in line. On my way over to the car, this teenager came up to me and started talking to me in Ukrainian. I told him that I only understood English, but he kept following me around the parking lot repeating himself. I think he thought that if he kept saying it to me, I may eventually understand it. I reached into my pocket and pull out some change thinking that he was asking me for money. He shook his head no, and called his friend over. His friend started walking on the other side of me, also talking to me in Ukrainian, and I again told them that I did not know what they were saying. They each grabbed onto my cart to the left and right sides of the handle I was holding and began walking with me. I thought that I was about to either get robbed (little did they know that the change I had tried to give them earlier was all I had with me), or that they were going to steal my cart of groceries. I picked up speed and knocked on the cab drivers window for some help, and he got out of the car and opened the trunk. All three of them started loading my things into the car for me. Turns out that all they wanted was to return my cart so that they could get the 50 cent deposit back that I had paid. What an ordeal!
Once we were safely in the car again, I told mom that I never wanted to come back to that store again (at least not without Edward). We were starving because neither of us had eaten all day, and we’re looking forward to the McDonald’s trip on the way home. Much to our surprise, the driver picked up speed passed the McDonald’s parking lot, and mom and I watched the one thing we’d been looking forward to all day fade into the distance. I never thought I would need to learn the phrase “hey, you missed the entrance to McDonald’s” in Ukrainian, but that phrase would have been worth a million bucks to me today. Maybe after seeing the huge load of groceries we put in his trunk, he thought that we would have no money left to pay him if we stopped there...he was almost right!
When we returned to the apartment, the guys came down to bring the groceries up for us. Edward said that the driver had called him from the parking lot of the grocery store at about the one and a half hour mark to ask if we were okay in the store. He assured him that we were fine, and that we just had a lot of shopping to do. I guess they do not realize how hard it is to shop when you have to look for the food that expired the shortest time ago!
While Dan showered, mom and I walked to the local McDonald’s for take-out (we only had a few minutes before we were leaving for the orphanage). Dan and the driver showed up to pick us up, and we took the twenty minute ride to the orphanage. During our ride, Dan told us that he had hurt his neck showering (we think it’s a pinched nerve). He can only turn his head to the left if he turns his whole body. He’s been carrying a heavy backpack with him everywhere for the past two weeks (with our laptop and other expensive items that we don’t want to leave in our apartment), and it has been rough on his back. The lack of nutrition probably hasn’t helped.
Nadiya was excited, as always, to see us at the evening visit. She seems to be changing everyday with all of the attention we give her. It proves to us how much the human spirit needs love! We played with toys, walked up and down the hall, and of course fed her lots of food. All of the couples we went to dinner with the night before were there, and we talked about what a great time we all had. Hopefully we’ll get to do it again before we all leave.
After our visit, we came back to the apartment to finish up the game of UNO we had started two nights before, and dad called to talk to mom. As our night came to a close, we enjoyed our daily ritual of reading e-mails from home. We are hoping that tomorrow will be our lucky day when our paperwork gets signed, and we can move forward with the process.
December 8, 2003
As I write this, mom is washing her clothes in the tub. A peculiar thing about washing your clothes here is that they look dirtier after you wash them than they did before! The water has turned all of our whites gray, and leaves them feeling like they have a residue on them. It’s sad that they cannot provide fresh drinking water to their citizens. There is an abundance of water near the town we are in, but as with much of the countries in this area, there is not an adequate filtration system in place.
We can see the Dnipro River from our apartment building (second largest river in Europe/Russia), and we are near one of the widest portions. The water is so beautiful at night. When we drive home from the orphanage, we follow the river, and can see the lights reflecting off of the water. It’s wonderful to end your evening by seeing something so beautiful, even though it runs through one of the gloomiest areas you can imagine.
Today was another emotional rollercoaster. We’ve decided that we are now calling our adoption journey “Saving Baby Mia” (very similar to Saving Private Ryan, but without the great special effects or drama). Saving her from the country she was born in, from her horrible beginnings, and from a life that she does not deserve to live. Every time we start to get discouraged, we remind ourselves how much we are changing our daughters’ life. She will never grow up knowing what hunger feels like, how much cold a human can really tolerate, or any other undesirable conditions that a lot of the families here face. She will be able to smile a genuine smile, and know that she has a future. It’s sad to talk to the Ukrainian people that say they do not smile because they feel helpless. Many of them want to make a change in their lives, but are controlled by financial and governmental barriers. There is no way to explain the emotions we feel for these people…it’s something that you have to experience for yourselves. This trip has been such a life changing event for us, and we appreciate the lives we have been given more than ever! Put in the words of our interpreter “if you were born in America, you were blessed by God’s good fortune.”
It was a strike of “God’s good fortune” that we finally received our signed paperwork today! We woke up early to head to the orphanage, but on the way there, Edward said we needed to stop and ask the inspector if the signatures were on our documents yet. When we pulled up to the building around 10 am (the start of Nadiya’s visiting hours), he told us that he was going to have the driver take mom to the orphanage to visit with Nadiya, and that Dan and I needed to stay with him. The plan was to try to visit the judge AGAIN today, providing that our paperwork was finished.
We dropped mom off and were sad that we wouldn’t get a chance to see Nadiya this morning. We went back to the inspector’s office (right around the corner from the orphanage), and Edward told us to wait in the car while he went in to talk to her. We sat in our taxi for an hour and a half, wondering if he would ever return! Finally he came out to tell us that he had three out of five signatures, but that we needed to come back in a little while for the other two. We then drove to pay our local court taxes for our upcoming hearing, and were back in front of the inspector’s office again before we knew it. Edward ran inside, and one hour later, came out to say that he had four of five signatures, but that we would need to go for the last one after lunch.
By this time, the judge would not see us. She only has open office hours on Mondays and Thursdays until around noon (not set in stone…hours end when she gets hungry or doesn’t feel like talking to people anymore). We decided to go back and pick up mom at the orphanage and head back to the apartment for lunch. Edward would wait at the building until the final signature was on the paper.
Mom said that Nadiya was in a great mood today during play time. She ate a lot, as always, and played with a lot of other kids that were in the hall. We’ve made some wonderful friends from around the world that are also adoptive couples, and our children get along so well. You could tell that mom had been around Nadiya today because she had the customary smashed bananas and cookies all over her clothes!
When we arrived at the apartment, we decided we’d walk down to the local pizza shop for lunch. We’ve been eating out a lot here, because it is almost as cheap as buying food in the store. We had two pizzas (with toppings) and three bottled drinks for less than $7.00! The food was great, and we were a spectacle when the locals heard us speaking English. An eccentric looking Ukrainian woman came up to our table and said “Americans?” When we replied yes, she said “Las Vegas” in very broken English and began dancing around for us. We weren’t sure if she wanted to be a dancer in Vegas, or if she was just a little nutty. We had a good chuckle out of the event, and were hoping that she wouldn’t sit down at our table with us when a worker came over and said something to her (probably to leave us alone--or that she was making a fool of herself--because she disappeared after that).
Edward came back around 3:30 to tell us that he had collected the final signature, and Dan did a dance around our living room. Edward just laughed at him (as always)…he doesn’t quite know what to think of Dan at times! We know that he secretly loves his energy, but he just isn’t used to it. Before we got too excited, Edward let us know that there was one glitch. The judge said that she would not accept any of our petitions because they only had the signature of the deputy director of the NAC on them. The director is out on vacation until the 15th of December, so this person is acting in her place. According to the “law” (I use that term loosely) in Ukraine, it is perfectly legal for the deputy to sign the petitions, but this judge says she will not accept them. So, all of the parents had to put in a complaint to the general prosecutor today, and hope that he or she will override this decision with what is written as law. If not, everyone’s paperwork will have to go back to the NAC for the director’s signature.
Edward explained that he would be hand carrying our paperwork to the NAC on the overnight train to Kyiv tonight (he is going to get the deputy’s signature in hopes that this decision gets turned around by the time he gets back). After the NAC receives it, they need 2-3 working days to process it. Translation: Dan, Tiffany, and mom are on our own here until he gets back Wednesday (or possibly Thursday morning). How scary! He told our driver what time to pick us up and drop us off each day, so at least we do not have to worry about transportation.
When we arrived at the orphanage tonight, they told us that they had created a new room upstairs for all of the adoptive parents to take their children to during visiting hours. It is warmer than the hallway, has much more room to spread out in, and even has a piano for entertainment! We had such a great time in this room tonight. One of the adoptive parents is a pianist in France, and he spent most of the night playing children’s music and Christmas carols for the kids. They all really enjoyed it, and Nadiya was spinning around dancing. Each day we all bring a few toys for our children to play with, and tonight we pooled them all and each child had plenty of things to keep them busy. Some children, including Nadiya, took awhile to warm up to the idea of a room full of noises and people. By the end, they were all having a great time, and many didn’t want to go back to their rooms.
We said goodbye to Nadiya and headed back to our apartment. Dan walked down the block to find a pay phone to call work, and mom and I made dinner. Before heading to bed, we played a few more games of UNO and talked to Dan’s parents and the boys on the phone.
Things look like they are going to take longer than we anticipated with our adoption. For now (at least until Edward returns), we are at a standstill. This week we will just enjoy our little one and not think too much about what is going on behind the scenes with paperwork and judges. We miss everyone back in the states so much (especially Ethan and Camden), and cannot wait for this process to be over.
December 9, 2003
Today has been a day of thoughts. Reflections concerning a trip which is sure to forever shape my life and others in so many ways. I have been cultured more than words can describe in just over two weeks time. Life completely influenced by the adoption process. So many strong experiences and the book is just beginning on a precious life of one girl. Nadiya Mia as we call her now is seemingly different each minute, each hour, each day. We look at her and simply cannot look away. Saving Baby Mia is the joke of the day as each moment is spent writing and re-writing strategies in my head. Inevitably I know she will return home and be a part of our family; however in a place like this time is seemingly standing still. No day goes by without hopes and prayers for a quicker process or an unexpected change in the thick bureaucracy of this region. No hour passes without a thought for family and friends. No minute ticks away without a thankful heart and a wonderful idea transforming into reality. Nadiya Mia is the reality and reality cannot come fast enough.
My portion of our trip is coming to an end soon (I’ll be flying into Rochester Friday night), and I have so much to reflect on. This journey has taken us so far from home to find the perfect little girl. As I sit in the apartment tonight, the unknown is what makes it difficult. What is known is that I’m glad we took this adventure, and wouldn’t trade our experience of finding our daughter for the world. I am thankful for all I have in my life, and will pray for our little girl to come home soon. DSB
December 10, 2003
It’s difficult not to let emotions take over during this process. Try as I might, I have had a hard time keeping the negative things from getting to me. Every day that passes without a move towards completion gets more difficult. The hours turn into days, which gives you plenty of time to think about your current situation.
Last night the realization hit me that Dan would not be here in a few days, and I do admit to having a small breakdown. I am feeling sadder than I ever imagined I would about being apart from him for the remainder of the trip. We have encountered such a life-changing experience together these past few weeks, and it’s difficult to think about what it will be like when he is gone. On the flip side, I am so happy that he will soon be reunited with the boys, who have done an amazing job of being away from us for such a long time. Ethan and Camden have made a huge sacrifice by handling our trip as well as they have. Had they not been able to handle it this well, these past three weeks would have been much more strenuous on all of us.
I’ve had a startling reality check over the past few days with Nadiya Mia. I have read a lot about attaching with institutionalized children, and had felt that I was well prepared for this issue. As with all other aspects of our trip, you can never really prepare yourself for some things until you are living them. She is a loving little girl, and you can see that she loves us dearly. However, as expected, she is still very attached to her caregivers (which is a good sign—that means she is able to form bonds). When we visit her, she is very excited upon arrival, we always have a great time together, and she is very receptive to play time with us. The past two days, after we’ve only been there for about an hour or so, she gets up and goes back to her room to see her caregivers. She’ll get to the door of her room, turn around and give us a smile and says “bacca” (goodbye) with a wave. We watch her go into her room, see her caregiver, then go to sit on the floor for some alone time. When I say “alone time”, I mean the way that the children spend their days…laying or sitting on the carpet, staring at a wall or off into space. The caregivers have a lot of children to take care of, and each child gets no attention unless they are being fed, getting dressed or going to the bathroom. There are a few toys to play with in the room, but they have played with them so much that they seem to be indifferent to them. We have to remind each other that this is what she is used to, and what comforts her. She has never had one-on-one attention, and is not used to being away from her groupa. When we have her out and about by ourselves, you can see her relax a little more when other children are around. With time, and being away from this setting, we know that this will all change. In the meantime, it has been difficult not to compare her behaviors to what we are used to with our two boys who have been raised in a totally different environment. As with everything in our lives, there will be an adjustment period.
When we arrived at the orphanage this morning, we were met in the hall by our new friends Kevin and Audrey (they’re from New Jersey). They told us that they had some good news…they had just found out that they were having their court date today! We were so excited for them because they have been here about a week longer than us, and they have two children at home also. All the Americans here were excited because it means that there is hope for us to have dates soon, too. As we’ve mentioned before, some of the officials outwardly tell us that they do not like Americans, and things will be harder for us here. At least we have some hope now!
The morning visit with Nadiya was great! She was in one of the best moods she’s been in since we’ve been here. We did the usual feeding and playing rituals, and then she headed back to her room about 45 minutes before the visit was over.
We found this great little pizza place within a couple blocks of our apartment, and have been going there for lunch every other day (rotating days with McDonald’s of course). We’ve been eating dinner in our apartment every night so that we don’t have to go out after dark. The usual meal is pasta or rice cooked in the hot pot, along with the bread we’ve bought at the market that day.
Back at the orphanage for the evening visit we went up to the “party room” again. Eric (from France) played the piano for us, and the kids danced around and played with toys all night. Nadiya was not herself tonight…we think that she needed a longer nap.
After our visit we went out to wait for our driver by the gate of the orphanage. It is pitch black outside by the gate at night, and the stars seem to go on forever (when you can see them on low smog days). It’s very peaceful there…makes you think that the phrase “time standing still” was coined at that very location. In the distance we saw some people walking up the road with a flashlight, and it sounded as if they were speaking English. It turned out to be Kevin, Audrey, and their lawyer, Natalia, who were on their way back from their court hearing that had been delayed three hours. They shouted “we’re parents!” and we all clapped and congratulated them with hugs. They told us that the court had also seen the Swedish couple tonight, and that they too had been approved. We were elated for them, but also sad when they told us that they would be leaving tonight by train to go back to Kyiv. We hope to see them again the week we all pick our children up in January (that’s right, I said January—they didn’t get their 30 days waived by the judge, and we are being told that no one will). Before we left, I wrote the name of their traslator down, who is also a lawyer--you never know when we may need her!
Tonight we are going to bed hoping for the best tomorrow. Edward called tonight to say that he collected the last piece of paperwork from the NAC (hooray!), and that he will be back around noon tomorrow. As soon as he returns, we are going to see the judge to ask her to hold our court hearing in two sessions, and to get a better idea of when the actual court hearing might be. If she says yes to two sessions, Dan will be able to give a statement tomorrow, and leave by overnight train to Kyiv tomorrow night. We will get a power of attorney written for him before he leaves so that I will be able to attend court alone to represent both of us. This will be our third trip to the see the judge, and we are hoping that she’ll talk with us (she turned us down the first two times we went to see her). A lot depends on the outcome of tomorrow’s visit with her…as they say in Ukraine “sometimes the judges have too much power.”
December 11, 2003
The morning started out slow for us. The a.m. visit to the orphanage was forbidden today because the prosecutor was going to be there. Instead we stayed around the apartment and talked, and then took our morning stroll to buy bananas (you need to buy them every day here because they spoil by the next day…kind of makes you wonder what type of preservatives are on our bananas at home).
Edward arrived around 1 pm to take us to the court house. Upon arrival, there were several other couples waiting to see the judge. She only has open hours on Monday and Thursday, and you have no guarantee that you’ll get to see her during these times. After about an hour of waiting, the secretary came out and called us into the court room. If you’ve ever seen a soviet courtroom on television, you have a good image of what this room looked like. It was very stark and gray, complete with a cage for criminals to sit in during their trials. We sat on a bench in front of the chief judge and answered a series of questions. In the end, she said that she would accept our petition for consideration, but that by law she can have five days to look it over (and find any problems with it). She told us to come back on Tuesday morning and she would tell us what we need to fix, or assign us to the judge who will hear our case in court. Dan told her that he was set to fly out the next day (Friday) and asked if he had to be there for Tuesday’s meeting. Our interpreter told us that she said yes (or so we thought at the time).
Dan and I left the courtroom feeling completely stressed. He had a non-refundable plane ticket, and has already missed three weeks of work. We had no other choice but to call everyone back home and tell them that he wouldn’t be back for another week.
After court we went to see Nadiya. She was in a good mood, and was very clingy to Dan tonight. He sat on the floor with her and she kept coming over to sit on his lap.
We came back to the apartment and had no electricity. Edward said that this happens from time to time, and it may not be back on for awhile. We decided to head to McDonald’s where it was warm and had some light.
When we got back, the power was back on, and we starting making our calls home. Dan called his boss and our friends and family to make arrangements for a longer stay. We were busy at this all night, and were just about on the verge of nervous breakdowns. Dan was stressed about being away from work for another week. We knew that if he took one more week and nothing happened towards completion, there would be no way he could stay another week after that. Around 11 pm, I asked our translator why it was necessary for Dan to be there at court (a question that I had asked him earlier in the day several times), and he said that it wasn’t necessary to be there on Tuesday, but only for the final court decision! We couldn’t understand why he watched us go through what we did, and didn’t mention this a little earlier (even when we asked). We immediately started calling people back home again to tell them that Dan was on his way home. By the time we finished, it was around 1 am, and Dan had to leave for the express train to Kyiv by 6 am in order to catch his airplane at Borispol Airport. We know we aren’t going to sleep too much tonight!
December 12, 2003
Early this morning, Dan had to leave for the airport. He woke up just in time, and we wildly packed the remainder of his things. On his way out of the apartment, the door lock got jammed, and he was stuck inside. We had to call the flat host to let him out with her key at 6 in the morning.
She came and opened the door, and then Dan and Edward left. I was SO sad to see him go--it was heartwrenching. Mom and I were ready to go back to bed when the host pushed her way into the apartment with a bag full of sheets. She was motioning to us to go and take our sheets off our bed and make the bed with the new sheets she brought. So, here were mom and I at 6 am, bleary-eyed and wearing our pajamas, making our beds while a lady gave us orders in Ukrainian. What a way to start the morning!
During the day today, we went to the local open air market where artist’s come to sell their goods. They have many paintings and hand-made items that are specific to this region and country. We met many nice vendors who were very excited to have us buy things from them. One man shouted to us “I love you” in English (I think that it was one of the only phrases he knew) when we bought an item from him that was 15 gryvna ($3 US). Another woman wanted mom to get a picture taken with her in front of her booth, and when we bought something from her, she was blowing kisses to us as we walked away. The people are so appreciative when you purchase something from them. Many of them are older and retired, and therefore make about $20 USD a month from our equivalent of social security. It’s hard to believe that people can survive on such a small amount of money! Those who would be “rich” in America make very little money here. A doctor makes about $60 USD per month and a chief judge makes about $50 USD per month.
We went to see Nadiya during the evening visit, and she was in a great mood. She seems to recognize us more each day. When I came to the door tonight, she ran to me and gave me a big hug and couldn’t stop smiling. During our visit, I was speaking with the other families that have met with the judge to review their paperwork (what we are doing on Tuesday). I asked them all what they needed to fix in their dossier for the judge, and they all said that they needed two things: a letter from the US embassy saying that they will give her a visa when we bring her back and new blood work for both people in the couple. We are going to try to have both of these things either started or completed when we meet with her again on Tuesday.
After we left the orphanage, we went to see the Dnipetproptrovs’k orchestra perform at a concert hall by our apartment. This is the same orchestra we saw last weekend, and it was even more amazing the second time around! The first half of the show was a mixture of acts: opera singing, accordion songs, xylophone and percussion playing, and much more. During the second half the orchestra played classical songs, including some from the Nutcracker. After the concert was over we stayed for the media conference. Edward translated for us as they explained how the orchestra was funded, facts about the show that night, and what their hopes for the future are.
We came back to the apartment and I worked on learning some more phrases in Ukrainian. I’ve learned some simple terms like: come here, be careful, I love you, good, thank you, and sit down. I want to learn more so that I can communicate with Nadiya a little in her language (she doesn't speak the language yet, but fully understands it).
Before I knew it, the first complete day without Dan was over. Tonight I am wondering how his travels are going, and cannot wait to hear from him saying that he is home safely.
December 13, 2003
I woke up to a phone call from Dan saying he arrived home safely. I was so happy to hear his voice because I was nervous about him traveling alone. He had quite an ordeal after he left the apartment yesterday! The taxi driver that Edward called to pick him up on the train platform in Kyiv never showed up. When Dan stepped off the train, he only had about one hour to get to the Borispol airport, and no one that spoke English was around to help him get there. He finally made an executive decision, and took the cab that looked the “safest” out front of the train station. The driver only knew a few English words, and lucky for Dan “Borispol Airport” were two of them. On the way to the airport, the taxi ran out of gas on the side of the highway, and they had to flag down a van to take Dan the remainder of the way. He arrived just 22 minutes before his flight was supposed to take off, and cleared customs just 11 minutes before. Thankfully, the flight was running late, and was moved from 2:00 to 2:45 pm. He said that he didn’t sleep on the plane, and was totally exhausted when he arrived home last night (10 pm Rochester time, 5 am Ukraine time).
After we hung up, I talked to Edward about getting my blood work done today. He agreed that we should do this, but we were still unsure of what we were going to do about getting Dan’s blood work here in a timely manner, with all the correct certifications.
We got dressed and hopped in a cab to head to the first clinic. Upon arrival, the woman seemed very upset that we were just walking in off of the street, and kicked us out of their office twice telling us they were too busy to see us. Edward is quite persistent, and would wait a few minutes, and then go back in to ask if they would see me again. They finally reluctantly agreed to see me and take my blood. I rolled my sleeve up and had visions of a big mad Russian woman stabbing me with a needle. For those of you who know my history of being terrified of shots—this event did not help matters! Just before she was going to take blood, she mentioned to Edward that today they would only be able to run two of the five tests that I need. If I wanted the other three done, I would have to come back on Monday for a second blood test when the other machine was on (they only turn certain machines on during the weekend to analyze blood). Edward told her to forget about doing it today, and that we would come back on Monday to have all of the tests done at once. I have to say I was a little relieved that the mad woman did not want to take my blood…but I know that it is an inevitable event in my near future!
After we left this clinic, he called the AIDS hospital to see if they could take my blood today. They could not do it on the weekend either, so I will go back to the first clinic we went to and have it drawn on Monday. While Edward was talking with the AIDS hospital, he asked if Dan could have his blood drawn in the US and send it over. Of course he said no way because he wouldn’t know if that sample was really Dan’s blood or not. After Edward explained our situation, the doctor agreed to help us out. He said that if Dan goes and gets his blood drawn in the US and faxes us the results, he will put it on their letterhead, and it will be just fine. Hooray! Finally something is going our way.
By the time we dealt with all of these matters, we had missed the morning visit with Nadiya. Edward asked us where we wanted to go, and we decided to go to one of the street markets that we have not been to. Mom was looking for a gift for Dad, and we needed something to take our minds off of this trip.
The market was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced (I seem to say that a lot in this journal)! There were rows and rows of vendors in every direction, and people madly pushing their way through 3 foot wide aisles. Mom stood in front of one vendors booth for a few minutes (because she was looking at the vendors things across from it), and the lady reached out and pushed her out of the way (and told her what we think was “move it” in Ukrainian).
Just when we thought we’d seen it all, Edward said “let’s buy some fish!” I can tell you this…I have never been so happy to be a vegetarian in my whole life! Mom made the mistake of telling Edward that she likes catfish, so today it was his mission to find her one. We headed to the “fresh” fish area of the market (I use the term “fresh” very loosely), where there were rows and rows of fish. Some were still flapping around in big tubs (and splashing us with bloody fish water), while others had been dead for who knows how long. Mom didn’t want to offend Edward, so she agreed to buy a small piece of the biggest catfish we’ve ever seen. Right before our eyes the fish went from being a huge animal to a small steak in a plastic bag. I’ve never seen a fish cleaned and gutted before, so I thought I was going to lose my lunch (the smell and blood all around didn’t help much). On the way out of the food market, we picked up some potatoes to make with the fish for tonight’s dinner...sounds good to me!
We came back to our apartment to bring our goods from the market, and then called a cab to take us to see Nadiya for the evening visit. We went out front to wait, and the cab never showed up. Edward called them again, and they assured us they’d be there in a few minutes, but still were not there a half an hour later. He decided that we weren’t waiting for this cab anymore, and we walked to the main street to hail another.
Upon getting into this cab, we knew something was a little off. The man wouldn’t really talk to us, and his car smelled horrible. He started driving and the back wheel sounded like it was going to fall off of his car. In addition, we had to ride with our turtlenecks over our nose to keep from choking on the exhaust that was coming in the back door that wouldn’t completely close. Both of those details were minor compared to the shock Mom and I had when we heard empty alcohol bottles crashing around behind us. This guy was completely drunk, and you could tell by his driving. We were nervous and motioning to each other, but there was not much we could do as we’re going down a pitch black highway. As we were driving, he suddenly kept going straight when the highway turned, and we ended up off of the road. He came to a complete stop, and I was trying to tell mom to get ready to run. I thought for sure he was going to rob us, and for the first time during our trip, I was REALLY scared. Not just a little scared like I was at the grocery store the day I thought I was about to get robbed by the teenagers…but the kind of scared you feel when all of the blood shoots from your extremities into your body trunk (fight or flight reaction). I guess you would have to know our facilitator and how easy-going he is to appreciate what he said to this man next. He simply pointed to where we were in the grass, then to the road, and said “you missed the road” (in Ukrainian of course). The man acted a little surprised…as if he truly didn’t know why he was sitting in the grass until the very moment that Edward said something. He turned around, and acting as if nothing happened, simply went back onto the road and continued driving. Needless to say, we were terrified for the rest of the ride!
We arrived at the orphanage to find Nadiya in a so-so mood. Sometimes she is a little groggy during our afternoon visits. They keep her on a tight schedule, and wake her up from naps for snack time, even if she is still tired. After our play session was over, we took her back to her room. Each time I open the door to her room, one of the little boys in her groupa comes running to the door for me to pick him up. He always calls "mama, mama"...which completely breaks my heart! One day he was on the potty chair when I came in, and was scooting his chair across the floor to greet me. Tonight, as always, I picked him up to hug and kiss him, and he squeezed back, as always, with all his might. As I was holding him, the caretaker told Edward that no one has ever come to see this little boy during his whole life. He was put in the orphanage at birth, and has had no sign of family since. However, the family has not officially signed him over for adoption, so he is not available yet. By Ukrainian law, if a child is not visited in the orphanage for more than six months, they are considered abandon. So, he is considered abandon, but they just have not gotten around to doing his paperwork yet. When a parent signs over a child it starts the paperwork process rolling, otherwise it’s whenever the system gets around to getting it done. Edward said that it can take a very long time for a child to get registered for adoption because there is such a shortage of social service workers. Meanwhile the child just sits in the orphanage. This explains to me why the NAC has so few young children available in their books--even though I see TONS of children sitting without families in the orphanage. The caretaker said that this little boy wants a family in the worst way. Every time the door opens, he is hoping that it will be his new parents to take him. Obviously, my heart just about broke in two! I looked at my mom and she said “there’s no way you could do it Tiffany!” I guess she knew what I was thinking. If it were up to me (and I was Superwoman and independently wealthy), I’d take them all home. It will be so hard to leave all the little ones I see everyday, and not know if they will ever be adopted.
There are SO many children in Ukraine that need good homes. Nadiya's orphanage is one of six orphanages in Dnipropetrovs'k, but only two are open to international adoption. On her campus alone there are two buildings full of children. Her building has over 140 children from birth to four years old, and the other building has about the same amount of kids from ages 5-16 years old (at 16 they are considered an adult and kicked out onto the streets to fend for themselves). This is only ONE campus in a large country! The baby house has people coming and going all of the time, but the older kids almost never have anyone adopted from their building. We met a couple while we were here that is adopting an eight year old, and the director told them that it is the first adoption that they've had from their building in two years! When the left for their thirty day wait in the states, the only picture the little girl wanted to keep was the photo that they brought of their house to show her. She wanted to show everyone that she was really going to have a home! I can't imagine how many children are sitting in orphanages all over this country waiting to be adopted right now. It's so frustrating because I personally know a lot of people that would adopt if they didn't make it so difficult. The paperwork and costs are too overwhelming for many people.
After we left the orphanage, we went to see the local symphony perform again. During the performance last night, they invited everyone back for another show tonight. They played different pieces and had some new singers. As always, it was fabulous! Tickets for a symphony here are so inexpensive! We paid $25 gryvna for three of us to attend ($5.00 USD). The show that they put on was amazing, and would easily go for $75-$100 per ticket in the US.
On our way home from the symphony, we decided to walk to the market for some things for the apartment. Little did I know how much this seemingly small event would change my life.
Mom and I went in to go shopping while Edward went down to see if our fax from Warsaw had come in yet (we were having it faxed to a hotel in the city). After we finished shopping, we were waiting on the front step of the store for Edward when we saw this little boy standing in the doorway. He was whispering something to every person that went in the store, but everyone was ignoring him, and we had no idea what he was saying. We only guessed he was begging for money, so mom and I started digging through gryvna to figure out how much we were going to give him. Just as we were about to give him some money, Edward arrived. We asked him to go and ask this little boy what he was begging for, and he told us he just wanted a piece of bread and something to drink. Edward said that we should not give him money, but instead buy him food if he is hungry. Mom stayed out with our bags (you can’t bring them in the store), and I went in with this boy to buy him some food. We let him walk around the store and pick out some things that he wanted to eat. He told us that he was starving, but only picked out two bananas and a piece of bread. It amazed me how modest a starving child can be in this society.
It’s difficult to explain what this child looked like. He was about nine years old and skinny. His clothes and body were VERY dirty, and he wouldn’t look you in the eye when he spoke. His eyes were so hollow, and you could tell that he has only known this rough life, and never has had the chance to be a child. Edward starting talking to him, and we discovered that he had a whole family that was starving at home. His mother does not work, his father is dead, and they have no income. His brother is 14, and the two of them take a train into the city everyday to beg for food. They sit outside of two different grocery stores, hoping to collect something for their family to eat. The mother sends these two out while she stays home and watches her seven year old daughter. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, and told the boy that I wanted to buy groceries for his whole family. I made him promise me that he would take them home to them, and he said that the would. As I walked around the store with this child who was very dirty, it was amazing to see the way people looked at him. The security guards kept a close eye on him, and they didn’t know what to think of us because we were walking with him. At one point, Edward told him to go and pick up a bunch of bananas for his family. When he got there, the store attendant wouldn’t let him touch them. Edward had to go over with him so that he could take them off of the shelf. I bought him as much as he could carry: a full chicken, three boxes of milk (that's right I said boxes...the milk is on the shelves here---not refridgerated like we have it back home), soap, oil, eggs, butter, bread, napkins, bananas, 3 packs of cookies (yes, not a staple, but kids have to have a little fun), and a few other things. I tried to buy him cereal and toothpaste, but he didn’t even know what they were! My total came to only 48 gryvna (about $9 US), and it will probably feed a family of five for a week. Just before we checked out, Edward bent over to talk to him about his situation, and he thought he smelled glue on the child. He asked him if he sniffs glue to get high, and he said no. Edward told him that he smelled it on him, and that it would be okay if he told him the truth. He finally admitted that his older brother and friends make him do it, and if he doesn’t they will severely beat him. This poor little nine year old boy that I was walking with was not only starving, but he was high.
I cannot explain the emotions I felt as I watched him scurry away with his groceries tonight. I was so happy that I could help him in this small way, but wished there was more that I could do. I wondered what would become of him and his family, and how many other children in the world are living like this. I felt guilty for all the times I’ve ever complained that something in my life wasn’t right, and truthfully a little embarrassed about how glutinous our society is. It was a harsh reality that I will never forget as long as I live.
December 14, 2003
Today started out great because I had the third warm shower since I’ve been here (one in Kyiv and two in Dnipetproptrovs’k)! It may seem like a small thing to most people, but when you’ve been taking ice cold showers for three and a half weeks, a warm shower can make your day!
The shower was warm today because it was not peak usage time for our building. Mom and I did not get up until almost noon today! We obviously missed the morning visit with Nadia, but it felt like heaven to sleep in. We are so exhausted lately, and are attributing it to all of the walking and steps we are doing each day, plus the heavy exhaust and smog we’re breathing in.
We had a few hours to waist before the afternoon visit, so decided to go back to the artist’s market again. It’s a close walk for us, and there are different artists there each day. We were immediately recognized by the locals today, and were escorted around to some of the booths by a Ukrainian woman that knows a few words of English (100% cotton and handmade seemed to be the only things she knew).
We got back from the market and Edward told us that Dan had called with some good news—we caught Saddam Hussein! God Bless America! Mom and I were so excited by the news and wished more than ever we could be around other Americans that were excited too. Our translator has a different view on the issue, and feels compelled to share his feelings with us. Many of the people here think that catching Saddam is not a huge step for America. They remember the times of Stalin, and how they blamed all of their problems on him.
This is probably the time that I should mention how Edward has changed since Dan left. He went from happy-go-lucky Edward to you-women-don't-even-exist Edward! Women are not hightly regarded here, and without Dan's presence, I guess Mom and I fall into this category now. He barely speaks to us, and leaves us on our own a lot (a little scary when you don't know that language).
Our regular driver showed up to take us for our evening visit with Nadiya. When we arrived, the other adoptive parents told me she was looking out the door for me during the morning visit and crying. The news broke my heart, but at the same time made me feel like my presence is making an impact on her. When I opened the door to her room tonight, she plowed over the other children and threw everything she was holding to run to me. She gives the best hugs after she hasn’t seen you for awhile!
As always, we had a great visit with her. She was in an especially good mood tonight, and really gave me a run for my money. I’ve been layering my clothing to keep warm, and made the mistake of having three pair of pants on the night she decided to be extra active! Needless to say, I was sweating and tired by the end of a two-hour marathon to keep up with our little one.
On the way out of the orphanage I stopped in the bathroom to throw some garbage out, and was shocked to see that someone had stolen the toilet seat we bought! None of the toilets in the orphanage have toilet seats, so two weeks ago we brought one and put it on in their main bathroom. I’ve been amazed at all the things that the workers steal from the children and the orphanage…but a toilet seat...that’s pretty low! Guess we found out the hard way why none of the toilets had seats to begin with.
When we got back to the apartment, we went to purchase the television for the orphanage. Edward said that it takes a half an hour to buy a TV here, so if we wanted to pick it up early in the morning, we should go fill out the paperwork on it tonight. I couldn’t imagine why it would take a half an hour to buy a television, but he was right! When we finally pointed out the TV we wanted, they had to take it out of the box and hook it all up. Then they programmed it to the local channels so that we could see what each channel looked like. It is apparent that buying a television here does not happen quite as often as it does in America!
One moment during my day especially stuck out, and it was during this trip to the electronics store. After they had set the television up, they stopped in on Euronews so that we could see something in English. They turned it there just as President Bush was saying “We Got ‘Em” in his Broadcast in America. A chill went up my spine, but I suddenly felt like a single opposing team fan in a home team stadium. I looked around the store packed with Ukrainians, and they were not the least bit impressed at what we had just seen. At that moment, mom and I were proud of our country, and it didn’t matter where we were standing.
We ended the night with phone calls from my Dad and Dan. I of course had to fill Dan on our "new" Edward!
December 15, 2003
Happy 2nd Birthday (Nadiya) Mia!
A funny thing happens to you when you are on a journey like the one we are on. You lay in bed at night and think to yourself that there is no way you will ever top what you have experienced that day. And to your surprise, each day, you prove yourself wrong.
Today was one of those days.
We met our driver early this morning and he took us to pick up the TV. The electronics store didn’t open until 10 am, so we were already cutting into our morning visit with Nadiya.
After we safely got the television into our cab, we stopped at the clinic to get my blood taken. Mom decided to sit in the car with the television to make sure it (and the cab) would still be there when we came out.
Inside the clinic, the doctor once again told us to get out of her office two times, just as she had on Saturday. The first time was because she said she was busy (although she didn’t look like she was doing anything), and the second time was because we were wearing our jackets. If I have learned anything from visiting doctors in Ukraine, it is that you must leave your coat outside of their office. They are afraid that you are going to carry in germs on your outerwear…which may not be too far off after you’ve smelled the air here. When she finally accepted us, she was not too happy about us being there. She was reluctant to take my blood, but said that 100 gryvnas would do the trick. Yet another payment due to a health care provider that is supposed to work in a free clinic. Edward says that this is a major problem with the health care system here. Prescriptions and clinics are supposed to be free, but everyone charges a “fee” for their services. This prevents the people who are very poor from getting the health care they need, which defeats the point of a free system. The providers are never caught, though, because it is all cash and no one can prove it. When I paid my 100 gryvans with a 200 bill, I didn’t get change from the clinic “money drawer” (if there is such a thing), but directly from the lab coat of the doctor.
After she took my blood, she announced that they could not do the AIDS test on my blood at this clinic. That would have been a great thing to know two days ago when she told me to come back here for a complete blood test! For some reason, they decided they would not do my testing here, and referred me to the AIDS clinic downtown.
We got back into the cab and drove across town to get my other testing done. On the way into the clinic, there was a giant picture of a huge heart split in two by a laughing skeleton head. I’m not sure what that was about, but it is never a comforting feeling to see a picture like this when you are on your way into a doctor’s office (especially when you know that they are going to be coming at you with needles)! I inquired to Edward about this picture, and he said that it was kind of a joke that meant if you think things were bad before you got here, wait until you come into this office. I thought to myself “should I walk or run out of this clinic?”…but Edward assured me that things would be fine.
In this clinic you needed to go through counseling with a doctor before they would take your blood for an AIDS test. After about a half an hour wait, we finally got in to see her, and Edward managed to make her mad at us during the first minute. They went back and forth in Ukrainian yelling at each other, and I was feeling a little uneasy about the whole situation. I looked at Edward for some translation, and he told me he would explain it to me later. The doctor finally told me to pay her 10 gryvnas (another “free clinic” charge, and she would let the nurse take my blood.
They sent me to another room, and the doctor told Edward to get out (she really didn’t like him at this point). This room was like something you’d see in an old war movie—very archaic medical supplies and a harsh smell of formaldehyde filled the room. The doctor disappeared and the nurse appeared to take my blood. She started chatting with me, and I told her that I only spoke English. She called Edward back into the room to help translate for her, and told me that I had to lay down to get my blood taken (the supine position was chosen by the doctor based on her evaluation from our meeting…I still cannot figure this one out…all they did during our meeting was yell at each other). The doctor appeared a few minutes later and was very upset that Edward was in the room again. Once again she kicked him out. I held onto my own tourniquet while the nurse took my blood from the same spot I had just had it taken from at the first clinic. That should make a healthy looking bruise.
On our way out of the clinic, I asked Edward what he said to the doctor to make her so mad. He told me that she wanted to sit and talk about why I had decided to come for an AIDS test. He replied to her that he wanted her to take my blood with no questions asked, and that we didn’t want to get into a lot of detail. She told him that he couldn’t talk to her that way, and it escalated from there. I still have so much to learn about this culture.
When we got back to our cab, it was noon, and I had missed the whole morning visit with Nadiya. This was the morning we were going to give the kids their Christmas tree and TV, and I worried that the other parents would be mad at me for not showing up with part of the surprise. At the same time, I was very disappointed that I wouldn’t get to see the looks on their little faces when they saw a Christmas tree for the first time.
Today is Nadiya’s birthday, and I wanted to bring in cake and ice cream for the kids. I asked the caregivers if it would be okay last night, and they said that the kids are not permitted to have these sweets and that if I wanted to bring something for her birthday, I could bring fruit. So during our lunch hours today, we went to the market to buy a bunch of fruit to make a fruit salad.
When I brought the fruit back to our apartment, I had no idea what an ordeal it would be to cut it up. Edward told me that I first needed to soak the fruit in tap water to remove all of the dirt from the products. After they soaked, I needed to boil water and pour it over the fruit to kill all the bacteria from the water I had just soaked them in. By the time you pour boiling water all over your fruit, it turns brown and really doesn't make for a yummy fruit salad! He asked how we do it in the states, and I told him that you just basically rinse and eat. Yet another reason we should be thankful for where we live!
We arrived at the orphanage a little early tonight to bring the fruit for snack time. We asked the caretakers if they would give the fruit to the kids, and they said no. The children were drinking buttermilk for snack, and they didn’t want that combination to upset their stomachs. After all that preparation, our efforts were wasted! The big bowl of fruit was quickly taken into the back and put near one of the workers coats--I suppose it was going home with her. Nothing suprises me at this point! One day we saw the orphanage workers in a room with all of the donated clothes that all of the families have brought for the kids, and they all had prices on them. The workers were actually buying the clothing we donated, and the kids in the orphanage are running around in rags. Unbelievable.
We carried the television into a side room, and the other adoptive parents told me about the morning visit when they gave them the tree. They said that the caregivers took the children into another room, and then they decorated the tree and brought them back in. The kids were so excited and their eyes were as big as saucers. They had to put the tree up on a table with crib frame around it to keep their little hands from pulling it over (and to keep the decorations on the tree).
We all signed a card to the caretakers thanking them for taking care of and loving our children, and then presented them with the TV for the room. Both the caretakers and children were very excited. These children had never seen a working TV. There was one in their room, but it had not worked since before all of them were born. The last family that adopted from the orphanage bought them a VCR, and they have not had a use for it yet. At the market this past weekend, I bought them some videos: Jungle Book, Ice Age, and a Christmas Movie (all in Ukrainian/Russian of course).
They lined the kids up in their chairs and we put in Ice Age for them. You cannot even begin to imagine the reaction from the children at seeing these images for the first time! They were laughing and pointing at the TV, and were all very excited. My favorite reaction was from a little girl named Victoria…every time she saw an animal on the screen, she would roar at it like a dinosaur.
The rest of the night, people from all over the orphanage were coming down to see the new TV and Christmas tree. The director and chief doctor visited, and they showed them how it worked by using the remote (they were all quite impressed). They kept the lights off all night so that their room was just lit up by the Christmas tree lights, and the kids loved it.
Since they would not let us have a party in her room, we took Nadiya up and down the hall to hand out party horns and balloons to all of the children we passed. Eric played Happy Birthday on the piano, and everyone sang to her. It felt good to know that I've only missed one birthday in my daughter's life, and was able to be here for her second.
Before we left the evening visit, the workers let me go in to see where Nadiya sleeps. It is a small room where all 16 children sleep, side by side, in little toddler beds. It seemed cozy, and unlike some of the orphanages in Ukraine, all of the beds had blankets.
I cannot even begin to tell you the emotion I was feeling on the ride home tonight. It was so amazing to see how these children reacted to something new, and how appreciative everyone was of our gesture. We take so many things for granted back home, and this trip has really opened my eyes.
Tomorrow is the day we are going to meet with the judge, and I am a little nervous about what she’ll have to say. Hopefully the meeting will give us a little better time frame of when our court date will be.
December 16, 2003
We woke up eager, hoping that we would have a court date by the end of the day. Edward dropped us off at the orphanage while he went to see the judge at the courthouse.
Nadiya was her normal happy self, and we had a great time with her as always. During our visit, a cat walked through the orphanage, and I was amazed to see the children’s reaction to it. It was clear that none of them had ever seen a live animal (except for the mice we saw running down the hall) as they didn’t know what to think of this “thing” walking through their halls. Nadiya’s eyes were round as saucers and she followed it all around. They would all kneel down to see it, but would not dare touch it. When it moved, they all jumped back away from it and giggled hysterically. It will be interesting to see what she thinks of our dog when she gets home.
When we took her back to the room, we could hear the caregivers screaming at the children inside, and did not want to send her back in there. They are nice as can be in front of adoptive parents, but when the door to their groupa closes, you can hear what they really live with. At any given time, you can hear several children crying and being yelled at. Many of them (including Nadiya) have developed a nervous habit of rocking from foot to foot when standing, or rocking back and forth while sitting. When the caretakers yell at them, they start to rock. I cannot wait to take her out of this environment, and will feel so sad for all of the children left behind to live this life.
After visiting hours were over, mom and I waited in the hall for about two hours for Edward to pick us up. He came down the hall with a distressed look on his face, and I could tell that this was not going to be good news. He told me that he went to speak with the judge but she was not in. She left a paper with the secretary that said we needed to collect two more papers before she could assign a court date. One paper is the release from the Ministry of Education from when she went into the orphanage, and the other is proof of her registration from civil records. He told us that he would take us back to the apartment and go collect these papers today.
We got back to the flat, and I took a much needed afternoon nap. I woke up when Edward returned from collecting the paperwork, and he had more stressful news for us. Civil records would not hand him the paper he needed because they must send it to the court themselves. They said that it would probably be there by Thursday, but possibly not until Friday. He’ll call in the morning to make sure they mailed it. The Ministry of Education only has two people working in their local office, and one of them had a husband killed in a car accident the night before. Obviously, only one of them was at work today, and the other was the person we need to talk to in order to obtain this paper. She told Edward that they expect her back on Thursday.
I think my stress level peaked tonight…four weeks into this trip, and we still do not have a court date! I had a small breakdown and told Edward that I want to go and speak to the judge myself in the morning. I need to find out when court will be in order to plan if I will go home and wait, or stay here.
December 17, 2003
I woke up ready to go...I had it in my mind that I would just march myself into the office, and no matter how intimidating the judge may be, I would demand (or beg, or both) to know when our court date is. No more dragging us along.
When we got near the courthouse this morning, Edward announced that he would be going to see the judge on his own, and that he would drop us off at the orphanage. I told him that I wanted to go with him, but he assured me that he would ask her all of the questions I have. So far he hasn't come through for us. I'm starting to really get upset. He laughs and jokes with cab drivers in front of us when we say something, and we have no idea what he is saying. We're sure that it's about Mom and I being "stupid" women. I've started to write a few of the words I hear him say to look them up in my Ukranian dictionary later (if I can figure out the correct spelling). I sure wish that I knew the language!
Nadiya seemed a little tired this morning. We walked around the halls and played, then decided that we’d take her outside. After the normal fifteen minute bundling session, we headed out the door.
As always, she fell many times because her boots are too big. Ice had formed on the top of all of the puddles, and she was amazed when we picked it up and handed it to her. It’s so neat to see her look at something new for the first time…her eyes are filled with such wonder. On our way back into the building, she fell flat on her face on the pavement. When I picked her up, the end of her nose was bleeding and she had another bump on her forehead. She cried really hard, and for the first time since I’ve been here, she let me hold her to calm her cries. When we first met her, she would fall down and most of the time she wouldn’t cry. On the occasions when she did cry, she did not want to be held and comforted (they aren’t used to be held when they get hurt). This (in my eyes) was a great indicator that she is starting to trust me and feel a bond between us.
Edward arrived late again to pick us up, but came bearing good news this time! Our court date is Monday at 11 am! Hooray!
We came back to the apartment to drop our things off, and went out for a busy lunch break. We walked to the travel agent to book tickets to get mom to Warsaw by Friday morning at 10 am. After we made these arrangements, we went down to the Dnipro River to take some pictures before mom leaves.
Before going back to the orphanage for the evening visit, we stopped at a Ukrainian restaurant, and were excited to find that they had mashed potatoes. We also had these great fruit crepes (much better than the pizza with hot mayonnaise sauce we had the night before).
During the evening visit, mom said her goodbyes to Nadiya, and all of the families she has met over the past few weeks. She was very sad knowing that she would probably never come back to this orphanage again, and wished she wouldn’t have to wait over thirty more days to see Nadiya again.
We spent the remainder of the evening calling people back home to make travel arrangements, and mom packed her things. Dan made airline reservations to arrive this Saturday around 4:00 pm.
December 18, 2003
When I look back on this trip twenty years from now, there will be two days that will force their way to the front of my memory: the day we met Nadiya, and today.
We woke up early this morning to take mom to the Dnipetproptrovs’k local airport at 6:45 am. On the taxi ride there, I was thinking about how different things would be without her here, and was feeling pretty sad. It has been so great having her around for these past few weeks. I wish that things would have worked out and that we could have traveled back together with Nadiya, as was our original plan. I guess life doesn't always work out the way you'd like it to.
Once inside the airport, we waved goodbye, and watched her walk down to her gate. I hated having to send her off, and have to say that I am very proud of her for making this long trip on her own! Her flight was going to stop in Kyiv before heading to Warsaw, and tonight she is staying in the Courtyard hotel that is located right inside the Warsaw airport. Her flight for the states leaves tomorrow morning with stops in Frankfurt and Dulles, with a final destination of Rochester, New York around 6:00 pm.
We came back from the airport and I fell back asleep until leaving for the morning visit with Nadiya. It sure is strange to be alone in this country. I can't wait until Dan gets here!
When we got to the orphanage, the entire place was spotless. All of the toys were down (they are usually up high out of reach so that the children can't play with them and make a mess). The little tables were set with tablecloths and fresh flowers. Nothing like I had seen in the past few weeks! They told us that the inspectors were coming today, and that we could not take our children outside of the small play area located outside of their room.
While I was sitting on the floor with Nadiya, a group of doctors walked by and stopped to talk to her caregivers. They were pointing at her and talking, and then continued on their way. The next thing I know, they are dressing her in her heavy quilted vest, and explaining to me what needed to be done in Ukrainian. They were pointing to her nose, and telling me to come with them. I thought “oh great, now I’m in trouble because of her fall yesterday.” I followed them into an outdated medical room where they sat Nadiya on a kids chair that was sitting on top of an adults chair (all around bad idea—this was very unstable and wobbly). They leaned her forward and put her nose into a large plastic tube with a bright light coming out of it. She looked like an old pro at this, but I had no idea what was going on. She kept looking over to make sure I was still there, and the doctor would yell at her because she was moving her head. After about two minutes, she handed her back to me and told me I could go. When I got back to the room, I asked the other parents if they knew what they were doing to her, and none of them had ever seen this done. When I finally found an interpreter, I had her ask them what they did to her, and they said that it was a special light that kills any flu bacteria in the upper airway. I’d never heard or seen such a thing, but they tell me that it is quite common in orphanages. I'm not sure that I believe that.
Lunch was ready, and Nadiya was ready to eat. With a wave and a “bacca” (goodbye) she disappeared back into her groupa. She loves to play and spend time with us, but when she sees the food go by from the kitchen, it’s adios amigos!
Edward was two hours late picking me up from the morning visit. Luckily I brought my book today…I’m learning a lot about surviving the “hurry up and wait” way of Ukraine. When he finally showed up, he said that he had gone back to the region Nadiya was first registered in, and they had the paperwork completed. One down, one to go (or so we thought)! Hooray!
We left the orphanage and headed to the courthouse. Each time you get a document completed, you need to drop it off at the courthouse so that the judge can review it, and pray that she doesn’t give you anything else to do while you are there. When we walked into the secretary’s office, she had Nadiya’s file open on her desk and was typing a letter on her old-fashioned typewriter. She told Edward that she was typing a letter for us to take to the hospital of Nadiya’s birth. The judge has come up with yet another piece of paper that she needs! Her birth certificate says she was born on December 15, but that is not enough proof that it is actually the day she was born (I can’t understand where the gap between “birth certificate” and “date of birth” lies…call me crazy, but it seems like they are the same thing). We now have to take this paper to the hospital she was born in, and they have to sign off that December 15 was indeed the date of her birth by their record. UGH! I have an image flash through my mind of a table full of judges playing a game of who can make up the new most illogical piece of paperwork that we must complete. Whoever made up this last one should be the winner of the game, hands down!
We agree, because that is the only thing we can do, to get this form from the hospital. On the way out to the car, I’m thinking “okay, no problem, how hard can it be to go to the hospital and have them verify a date?” I guess I shouldn’t have asked that question, because I was about to find out!
Once inside our cab, Edward turns to me and calmly says “we have a little problem. There are nine hospitals in the area, and there is no record of which one she was born in. The court needs to type out a form for us to take to the hospital each time to request information, but they will only do one at a time. Which hospital should we start with?” I forgot to breathe for what felt like five minutes, and could not believe what I was hearing! (Insert minor nervous breakdown here)
We decided to start with the most logical place… the hospital in the town where the mother was last registered. Edward ran back into the courthouse and had them type in the name of that hospital and we were ready to go. Before we left, however, he had some more bad news for me. While we were sitting in the car discussing our strategy for tackling this daunting hospital chore, the judge found another paper she feels we need before court (they must have gotten together for a quick meeting of the paperwork game while we were out in the car). She’s decided that the proof of license we have from our home study agency isn’t good enough, and instead she’d like a proof of corporal authority. Here is the hitch: this document must be an original and must be apostilled for Ukraine to recognize it as a valid document. I thought I was going to be sick. Dan’s flight leaves at 7:30 am tomorrow morning, he had one full busy day of work ahead of him, and he would need to get this paper before leaving home. Our home study agency is in Buffalo (about two hours west of where we live), and the place that it needs to be apostilled at is in Albany (about five hours to the east of where we live). I frantically called Dan and told him that he was going to have to spend the day in the car driving to Buffalo, then on to Albany, and hope that he could do it all before the close of business today. (Insert major nervous breakdown here)
After I got off the phone with Dan, my nerves were shot. Edward said that I needed energy, so we stopped in the hospital cafeteria for lunch. More potatoes...I think I'm going to sprout potatoes from my pores. We talked about the latest developments, and he told me that he had a plan to find the hospital Nadiya was born in. At this point, I was ready to try anything.
We walked over to the hospital that we thought she was born in and gave them the letter from the court. They said that they could not produce these documents, if they even exist there, until tomorrow. We knew that if this was not the hospital she was born in, we would be cutting it close on time to go to another one.
Back in our taxi, we went to the police station to try to find out more about the first six months of her life. The judge wants to know where exactly she was during this time because there are some gaps in her legal file. For the past two weeks we’ve thought that it was her grandmother who was taking care of her and had dropped her off at the baby hospital (where she spent 7.5 months before being transferred to an orphanage). Today I found out that it was not the grandmother that was taking care of her, but some other older lady that has no connection to the family. No one knows who this lady was…she is still a “mystery woman.” It was this woman’s apartment Dan went to a few weeks ago to discover she’d died 3 months ago. We had (and still have) so many questions: where was she born? Where is her mother? Why did an elderly lady who is not related to her have custody of the baby? Where was she from the time of birth until this elderly woman registered her at four months old? And the list goes on…
Dan called to say that the paper we already have in our dossier is the same paper that our homestudy agency would give us again (that paper basically is their proof of corporal authority). We left the police station (where we never did get to talk to the chief—and tomorrow he will be out for National Police Day), and went back to the court to tell them the latest development from Dan. Edward had to speak with our judge, who referred us to the chief judge, who referred us to the court of appeals. We had to file an official appeal to say we cannot produce a better document than the one that they have. The decision on this appeal will not be out until tomorrow, after Dan has already left for Ukraine. The only thing we can hope for now is for something to go our way for once.
Since the police weren’t available to help us, Edward decided we would go do the investigation on our own tonight. So, we got the last known address of Nadiya’s mother, and headed towards that house. We knew that she wouldn’t be there anymore, but were hoping that one of the neighbors would have some information for us.
We headed off of the main road onto a dirt road on the edge of town. It was pitch black outside by now, and there were little to no street lights to light the area. The dirt road got increasingly worse as we drove along it, twisting and turning this way and that, up and down hills. It became narrower at every turn, and eventually our car could barely fit on the road. We drove through craters filled with water that looked like shallow in-ground pools (maybe slightly exaggerated, but not by much), and around huge pieces of debris and dirt mounds in the middle of the road. Our driver had to get out of the car a couple of times to walk ahead to see how he would maneuver his car through some parts. This “street” was unlike anything I’d ever seen before! I kept asking Edward if he was sure that we were still on a road, because it looked like it had turned into a hiking trail. This road was something straight from an SUV off-roading commercial, except we were in a small European taxi cab, and we weren’t technically off the road (although it looked that way)! To top it off, we were in a cab with really dark tinted windows, and the cab driver was listening to heavy base music so loud that it was literally shaking our windows. It was unreal.
As we traversed this dangerous pathway towards answers, I couldn’t help but think of what Tatiana’s (Nadiya’s Mother) life must have been like when she lived here. All of the homes on both sides of the road were literally the size of utility sheds, and the overall condition of the area was deplorable. I imagined her walking up and down this road as a pregnant single mother, and cannot begin to imagine the isolation and loneliness she felt.
After about a half an hour on this horrible road, we came to a stop outside of a tiny home with one light on. The home had a five foot cement wall around it (like all of the others in this area) and plastic was used in place of glass on the only four windows in the home. This house was the size of the lawnmower shed out in our backyard, although I think our shed may be in a little better condition.
Edward went to the locked gate and tried to signal someone inside. When that didn’t work, the taxi honked his horn and set his alarm off. Still no one. Edward was determined at this point, and I watched as our tall skinny translator pulled himself up and over the wall, dropping into a dark pit on the other side of the wall. I waited for someone to come out with a gun, or for one of the hundreds of dogs we could hear barking to attack him.
He made it to the front door without incident, and the woman on the other side actually invited him in. He told me later that the house was atrocious…very dirty with a single woman and three children living inside. I will surely never be so amazed by another home in my life.
About twenty minutes later, he came out with some information. The woman that lived in this home was Tatiana’s host a little over two years ago when she was pregnant. She remembers her well, and said that she was a good girl that was never in any trouble. She was a quiet type of person that always kept to herself, and did not leave the house too often. She didn’t have a boyfriend, and this woman had never met the father of the baby. During Tatiana’s stay with her, she asked her if she knew anyone that would want to buy her baby after it was born. When the woman told her she didn’t know of anyone, the subject was never brought up again. She told us that the day Tatiana went into labor, only one person in the neighborhood had a car. She walked to this person’s house, and she took her to the hospital. Finally, someone that might know what hospital she was born in! She gave us the name of the person that took her, and told us where she lives.
When we pulled down the road that this woman lived on, we had to stop the cab and have Edward walk the rest of the way down it (our car would have never made it). This woman, too, agreed to let Edward come in and talk to her. She told him that Tatiana came over to her house late in the labor process. She put her in her car and started for the hospital, but the baby did not want to wait and was born in her car. It was a little girl (Nadiya), and Tatiana decided that she wanted to take her to register her at the hospital. However, she had not decided on the closest hospital (where we had been that day) for some reason, and had taken her to one of the hospitals that we probably would have checked last. What a find this was!
After assuring that no one in the neighborhood knew the whereabouts of her mother, we headed back down the road to civilization. As we drove, I was on the verge of weeping for Nadiya. I was sad for her mother and for her beginnings, but mostly sad for the life she almost would have lived if her mother decided to keep her. This area was no place to raise children…I’m not even sure I would let my dog stay in some of the homes.
On the way home tonight Edward said “you are REALLY saving this girl”, and I realized that he was right. Not only are we saving an orphan from an orphanage, but we are also saving a little girl, who had the toughest beginnings possible. Suddenly my stress from the day started to melt away, and I was able to leave the thoughts of paperwork behind. Yes, indeed, we REALLY are saving this precious little girl, and that’s all that really matters.
December 19, 2003
Edward was out of the flat this morning by 7 am to head to the courthouse once again. He needed the secretary to issue another request for information to give to the hospital we believe she was born in. After receiving this paper, he took it to the hospital, and lucky for us it is one of the only hospitals here that has computerized records! When you put in a request at any of the other hospitals, they need to dig through their stacks of files, and hope that they have not lost the one you are looking for. They immediately found proof that Tatiana had come to this hospital, and had given birth to a baby girl on December 15, 2001 (Hooray! One more obstacle out of the way). However, the chief doctor who needs to sign this paperwork was not going to be in all day. They told us to check back after 3:00 pm, and there may be a chance that he had stopped in to sign it.
Meanwhile, I was waiting for Edward to take me to the morning visit. He had so much running to do, though, that he did not arrive until after the morning visiting hours were long over. He stopped back for just a half an hour to eat lunch, then was back out again going from police station to police station, trying to put together all the pieces to this puzzle. During his research, he found out that the elderly woman who had Nadia did not drop her off at the hospital. She found Nadia, and brought her to the police station. The police are the ones on record of admitting her to the hospital...and she was only in the hospital for three months rather than the 7.5 they initially told us. We are going to check with the police again tomorrow to see if they can tell us where she was found, and any other information that may help our case. One police officer told Edward that they were summoned to testify at our court hearing on Monday, so I think we may learn more during this trial.
I had some time to update this journal, and then headed out to do some shopping. I walked around the town for over three hours and had a wonderful time seeing the sights. We met back at the apartment around 3:30 pm, and decided to leave for the afternoon visit.
The taxi driver today was an old grouchy man who yelled at cars and waved his hands around a lot. On the way to the orphanage, Edward asked him to pull over so that he could run in and exchange some money. As soon as Edward was out of sight, a car pulled up and parked beside us in a parking spot. The driver went crazy because he felt that this car was too close to his. He jumped out of the car and started screaming at the man in the other car. He made such a commotion, the police showed up behind our car, and told them both that they needed to leave. He jumped back into the car and started telling me something in Ukrainian while he was backing out. I was saying “nyet, nyet, Edward” trying to tell him to wait for Edward. Thankfully he appeared out of the bank just in time to see the man flashing his lights for him to hurry up.
After a stop at the city council building, they dropped me off at the orphanage, and Edward went to meet with the judge regarding our paperwork. Earlier in the week, she told him that the final two papers needed to be in by the end of the day today in order to have court on Monday. However, we will not be able to pick up the signed hospital document until Monday morning. We wanted to make sure she will not cancel court for this reason.
Nadiya was very excited to see me tonight, and she was starving as always. She gobbled down a container of yogurt, some biscuits, and a whole box of juice. If I didn’t watch these children being fed at mealtimes, you would think that they never eat.
I needed to take her back early tonight, and she was not too happy about this. When you take your child out of the room, they make you put a pair of pants and a sweater on them over all their other layers of clothing. So, when you bring them back, the last thing you do is take their sweater and pants off. Tonight when I was trying to take her sweater off, she knew it meant it was time to go back, and she threw a fit. She grabbed onto the sweater for dear life, and as I undressed her, she was trying to dress herself again. I felt so horrible taking her back as she was crying uncontrollably, but I needed to make it to the travel agent before 6:00 pm to discuss our airline tickets home this Tuesday.
Edward came back to pick me up and told me that the judge had already left when he got there. We are hoping that Monday morning she will still allow us to have court, but we have no real way of knowing. This is going to be a stressful weekend once again!
We stopped at the travel agency, and when I got back to the apartment, I walked down to the phone booth to call Dan. He was on his layover in Washington DC, and was getting a chance to visit with the boys who are at Grandma and Grandpa’s there. He said that they have both grown so much this month (especially Camden). I got a chance to talk to both of them, but they did not have much interest in talking to me. It’s amazing how well they have dealt with this separation (definitely better than their mom has)! I cannot wait to see them next week—it feels like I have been away for an eternity.
Dan flies into Kyiv (about 8 hours from here) tomorrow at around 3:00 pm. We paid a man to meet him at the gate and help him buy an airplane ticket to Dnipetproptrovs’k. He’ll arrive here at around 4:00 pm, and is bound to be exhausted. Edward and I are planning to take him to dinner for his birthday, and are going to find a place tomorrow to give him a massage when he gets here. I’m so excited that I will get to see him again soon! There is a light at the end of this tunnel.
December 20, 2003
I woke today to find Edward not feeling well. He’s come down with a severe cold, and told me that he needs to stay in bed the entire day to get over it. He asked me to go get him some things to help him feel better--a bushel of apples, cottage cheese, and a bunch of different homeopathic herbs. I went to the grocery store for the first two items, and the pharmacy for the herbs. After a really long walk, and five flights of stairs, I arrived with all of his "get well" requests.
To my amazement, he poured all the herbs together and made the nastiest looking drink you've ever seen or smelled. He gulped the whole thing down, then sat and ate the entire bushel of apples. He then ate the whole carton of cottage cheese, and went back to bed. I'm still not sure how he didn't throw up after all of that food! He must have a hollow leg.
Whatever he did worked well because he was up and better by this evening. Almost all signs of his cold had gone away...it was amazing! I really should get that recipe for the drink--but, let's be real--you know that I would never be able to drink it!
Dan arrived this afternoon, and it was SO great to see him! Today is his birthday, so we went to dinner tonight without Edward. What an experience! Out of all the restaurants in Dnipropetrovs'k, wouldn't you guess that we would pick the spanish one? The menu was entirely in spanish, and the people only spoke ukrainian in the restaurant! You basically ordered your food by pointing to the item you want on the menu. Our problem was that we couldn't read the spanish, or ask them for help in Ukranian! So, Dan just pointed to a dish that someone else was walking by with, and I pointed to a random one of the items on the menu that I had no idea what it was. I ended up with a pretty gross meal--I'm not even sure what it was! We learned long ago to stop asking what was in our meal...once Dan asked what kind of meat he was eating, and Edward said "just meat...we never know what kind it is." Scary.
December 21, 2003
In my attempt to be a good wife, I set up a massage for Dan in honor of his birthday. Edward recommended this place, and told me that they give great massages. However (of course there is a however...isn't there always on this trip?), it may not be what Dan is used to when he thinks of a massage. When they have massages here, they also hit them with tree branches across the back as part of the experience. It sounded painful to me, but Edward assured me that he would like it. Just imagine me saying "hey hon, I bought you a massage for your birthday---by the way, they are going to beat you with tree branches at the end, but don't sweat it...Edward said that it feels good!"
I could tell that he was a little concerned when I broke the news, so I decided to have Edward go along for a massage, too. He could translate for Dan, and I'm sure that he wouldn't take him to do something that he would do himself...or would he?...
The massage turned out fine, but Dan did say that it was a bit strange. The branches turned out to be more like a group of twigs, so it wasn't as dramatic as what I was fearing! Hopefully he is now all rested for our day in court this week.
December 22, 2003
Today I am almost too distraught to write about this experience! We have been beaten down for four full weeks now, and just feel like we don't have much fight left in us anymore. Usually we talk strategy at night, but tonight we can only lay here in silence and fear what court will hold for us tomorrow. Please don't say that we have to file more paperwork...
December 23, 2003
Today we were filled with much anticipation as we dressed in our court apparel. I had a nervous stomach ache, and Dan was busy with his pacing that has become a normal daily ritual during this trip. An hour and half before court was set to begin, our translator called us to say that court had been cancelled because we were missing (you probably already guessed it) two more pieces of paperwork! Once again, these were papers that we already had, but they did not like the way that they were worded. Edward told her that he would try to gather them before our scheduled 11 am hearing, and she basically told him that we shouldn’t bother. If we gathered these two things by tomorrow, she would agree to see us then.
At this point, Dan and I pretty much lost it. He had made a special trip back for this hearing, and now it was not going to happen. How do we really know that this will not continue to happen each time we are assigned a time? Out of the twenty couples that had been through the system before us last week (some of which had come after us and are already home), we are the only ones that have had court cancelled. We decided to call Edward back and tell him to come and pick us up at the apartment as soon as he gathered these two pieces of paper. Our idea was to go to talk to the judge ourselves, and explain our situation to her. We were hoping (foolishly) that she would have some mercy on us.
We arrived at the courthouse and asked Edward to ask the judge if we could speak with her. He went into her office while we waited in the dark hallway, and quickly came back out to say that she did not want to talk to us because she was too busy. We asked him to go back in and tell her that we would wait. He came back again, and said that we were making her angry. She will see us in court tomorrow, and that's it.
December 24, 2003
My mind is spinning with the events of the past four weeks. When I woke up this morning, I had to pinch myself to make sure I was really still here on Christmas Eve. This definitely was not in our plans for the holidays! This will be the first time in our lives that we’ve been away from our family, and it is very difficult. It was hard enough being away for Thanksgiving, but now we will miss Christmas too. It is so frustrating, but we are trying to keep our chins up and keep plugging along.
Edward left the apartment early this morning to go see the Minister of Education. She had to issue a request for paperwork to take to the police. Apparently the letter from the court was not enough for them when Edward visited the department yesterday. After he met with her, he went to the police station to pick up our report that would be finished around noon.
Meanwhile, Dan and I went to the orphanage to see Nadiya. When we came to the door, she ran to us with open arms, nearly knocking every child in her way over. We fed her as always, and worked on teaching her some more English words. She doesn’t have too much interest in speaking yet, but we are hoping that some of what we are saying to her is getting through. While we were sitting in the hall, we heard a loud scream from another adopting father. When we looked down the hall, he was picking his little girl up off of the floor. She had been up on his shoulders when she threw herself backwards. Her legs slipped through his hands, and she fell all the way to the floor, hitting the back of her head. He scooped her up and started screaming “doctor, doctor”, and they took her into a small room near where we were seated. By the time they went by us, her eyes were rolled in her head, and she wasn’t making much noise. A few minutes later, she was crying, and seemed to be doing fine, so she was taken back to her groupa. Her father was feeling so much guilt for not catching her, but it was just one of those things that happens before you can react.
Edward came back to get us with more news on his progress. He said that he had picked up the letter from the police and taken it to show the judge, hoping that she would schedule court for us today. She said that the police did not type today’s date at the top of the letter (only in the body of the letter), and that she would not accept it without this. So, off to the police station we went once more for this date to be added.
We brought the paper back to the judge, but she was hearing a criminal case. She agreed to talk with Edward quickly, and told him that the paper looked okay, but that she would not have time to hear our case today. She told us to come back again at 10 am in the morning (Christmas Day) to continue the second part of the case. Ugh…another day wasted by bureaucracy!
After a quick stop to McDonald’s (I'm really starting to get sick of that place), we were back on our way to the orphanage for our afternoon visit. The weather today has been snowy and icy for the first time since we’ve been here. While we were crossing over the bridge we take each day, there was a horrible traffic accident between two full size hauling trucks. One of the trucks was in a million pieces all over the road, and the driver was still hanging upside down in the cab (still alive and moving). It was hard to believe that anyone had survived this accident, but even harder to believe that an ambulance or firetruck may not be on the scene for at least an hour (according to our translator)! I would never want to get in a traffic accident here (not that I would ever want to get in an accident anywhere).
When we pulled into the orphanage, there was an ambulance parked in front. The little girl that had fallen from her father’s shoulders earlier in the day had taken a turn for the worse, and was being taken to the hospital. Her adoptive parents were so upset, and we felt horrible for the mother as she paced the halls tonight (the father went with the ambulance).
Nadiya was in good spirits again, and we took all of the donations from everyone back home to the director tonight. At the end of our visit, the caregivers in her groupa told us about a “Christmas” party they are holding for the children tomorrow morning at 9 am (it’s not really the official Christmas Day in Ukraine because they do not celebrate it until January 6th, according to the Orthodox calendar). There will be music and dancing for them in the music room, and the parents are encouraged to come and take pictures of their little ones during this festivity. What a great way to start our Christmas morning! We’ll leave directly from there to go to court, and hope that the celebratory feeling will continue!
December 25, 2003
Today was a day that we will never forget as being the most horrible Christmas of our lives.
We showed up at the orphanage for Nadiya’s Christmas party, but the workers told Edward that it did not start until 9:45. We had to miss it because we needed to be in court by 10 am.
We picked up the representative from the minister of education and a representative from the orphanage again on our way. During the drive to court, the orphanage representative told us that three of their workers had been mugged in the forest in front of the orphanage the night before. They were all walking alone, and were mugged at three separate times. The orphanage sits in a very dense forest, with just enough trees carved out for the buildings to sit on. They warn people not to take the “short cut” through the woods at night because people know that adopting parents have a lot of money on them, and they could be mugged.
Court started 45 minutes late because the prosecutor was hearing another case. When all parties were present, she stood up and gave her opening comment. At the time, Edward could not translate fast enough to us what was being said. Her short speech at the beginning opened up a battlefield where everyone began shouting at each other. The judge asked us if we had any comment on the decision she had made, and we had no idea what was going on. Dan stood up and said “our adoption of Nadiya is in the best interest of the child” (our standard defense statement). The judge basically said back to him that he does not make the decisions, and that it is for her to decide what is right and what is wrong. Not even ten minutes into the trial, she stood up and stormed out of the room screaming once again!
Obviously, we were dumbfounded. We asked Edward our standard question “what just happened here?”
She said that she was not satisfied with the paperwork, and that we needed to go to find the father who, let me remind you, is not officially listed on the birth certificate. We were devastated.
Edward looked up where the "father's" (the man who was married to Tatiana before she had Nadiya) address was, and said "Let's go." He lived about two to three hours from the courthouse, so we were going to have a mad dash on our hands to get there and back before the close of business today!
On the way out of town, we decided to go see the chief of police again. He has gotten to know us by now, and is very familiar with our case. We went into his office and asked him how much money he makes a month. He replied with the equivalent of $50.00 US dollars. We told him that we would give him a whole months salary if he would drop whatever he was doing and come with us for the day. Of course he agreed, and we were on our way.
Once we arrived in the city her "father" lived in, we went to his apartment building to try to find him. Edward told us to wait in the car---if the man found out that there were American's adopting Nadiya, he may ask us for money in order to sign the paperwork.
About ten minutes later, Edward came out to get us because the man wasn't home. He told us that we had to see what this apartment looked like, and we was right...it was something you needed to see to believe. When we walked up to the door, there was a big hole in the door (like a fist had been punched through it), and you could clearly see inside. There were a ton of cats inside and it looked and smelled terrible. The building had little to no heat, and you wouldn't believe that anyone could live there.
As we were walking out, we talked to some neighbors who told us where this man works part time. So, that was our next stop. Again we waited in the car as Edward went to check his place of employment. He came out shaking his head, and we knew that he hadn't found him. He was off that day, but the people that he works with told us that he spends a lot of time at the library because he likes to read. We drove around town with our window rolled down and the chief of police asked passerby's about the whereabouts of the library and if they knew who this man was (it was a very small town). We made it to the library, and once again, Dan and I waited in the car so that he wouldn't see the Americans.
We sat outside of the library for over two hours in a freezing cold car (they turn the cars off here when they idle to save on gas), and there was no sign of Edward or the chief of police. Suddenly, they emerged from the building holding up our signed paperwork...they found him! We couldn't believe our luck.
We madly drove back to the courthouse, and arrived before closing. Edward ran the paper in, and the judge said that she didn't have time to look at it that day...perhaps she would look at it in the morning. After all of that running---I guess we should have known. Edward asked for a court time the next day, and she said to ask her again in the morning after she looks at the paperwork.
We were crushed...a low of all lows...the lowest we've been since we arrived. We went back to our apartment and called our families back home sobing---it doesn't look good for us at this point, and we are all the way on the other side of the world when we should be home celebrating Christmas with our two little ones.
After we talked to the people back home to wish them a Merry Christmas, we went over to our dear friends Philip and Mary's flat. We met them about two weeks ago and just adore them. They are having all sorts of trouble like we are, so we hang out together and try to give each other strength. We were all upset that we couldn't be with our families today, so we set out to find a nice Christmas meal on our own. Almost everything was closed by now, so we settled for the same restaurant we eat at every day. I don't know what any of the food is, so I just eat the potatoes and bread of course. After dinner we went to a place were we had seen a little Christmas tree in the window, and had our photo taken in front of it in the spirit of Christmas.
We got back and decided to spend a little more time with Mary and Phil before going back to our apartment. For some reason we only have one key to our apartment, and Edward had been out all night doing who knows what, so we couldn't get into our place.
Dan and I took turns leaving their place (a building over from ours), and climbing the five flights of stairs to our apartment to check and see if Edward was back yet with our key. On my trip up the stairs I heard all kinds of commotion, but I wasn't sure where it was coming from. As I came up the last flight of steps, I saw a big Ukrainian man in nothing but his underwear banging madly at our door. I stopped climbing the steps in fear, but when he saw me, he pointed at me and started screaming. I had no idea what he was saying, so I was forced to tell him that I only speak English (a fact that we were trying to hide from all of the other people in the apartment building--we didn't want our flat to get broken into if they knew we are American's who are adopting--everyone knows you carry a lot of cash when you're in their country). He ran down to his apartment to get his nine year old grandson who was taking English in school. The boy came out with his English dictionary, and in the calmest voice you ever did hear said to me "Your...apartment...how you say it?...it's...on...fire. WHAT?? Our apartment is on fire?? I tried to explain that I didn't have a key to our place, but he was only getting madder by the moment. I ran down the stairs to find Dan and met him outside with a brief update. Someone must have been watching us, because at that very moment, Edward pulled up in a cab. We sent him in to face the angry man and translate for us.
Turns out that the water heating unit we've been having so much trouble with since we've been hear caught on fire and caught our kitchen cupboards on fire. Lucky for us, the heat broke the water pipe under the unit, and water was keeping the fire contained to just the cupboards. Unlucky for the guy who lived under us, though...water was pouring through his ceiling! He made us come down and see the damage it was doing to his place. I felt horrible, but at the same time had the feeling that he wanted to close his apartment door behind us, and chop us into little pieces. He told us that we were going to pay for the damage to his apartment--normally I would have argued and said that we were not paying for something that was not our fault--but after the day we've had, I just said "put it on our Ukrainian bill" and left the apartment.
Needless to say, our place was a mess after we got the fire out--that's right, I said WE got the fire out...remember all of the emergency services things we've written about? If we waited for the fire department to come, the whole building surely would have burned down! We mopped and scrub and headed to bed.
What a day.
December 26, 2003
I almost cannot type after the day we've had. The judge agreed to have a court session for us today early in the a.m., and once again, she yelled at us and told us to get more paperwork done, and she would consider seeing us later in the afternoon. I don't even know what kind of paperwork it is at this point---I just want to go home! We are so beaten down.
We've pretty much figured out that the judge does not like Edward, and in so many words, the minister of education told us that we need some help...she somehow knew that the judge was not going to grant us this adoption before the holiday...I guess that she just didn't like us. On December 29th (Monday), all of the court officials will be off for one month on holiday. If you have a case that is pending, you cannot leave the country until they get back from their holiday in one month. We cannot do this! It all boils down to this one day.
After court, we had Edward take us back to the apartment while he went out to search for yet another signed document.
Then it hit me--we need a lawyer! I remembered Natalia, the lawyer that I met walking in the dark outside of the orphanage, and pulled out her number that I'd written down in my notepad. I went down to the phone booth and called her almost in tears and begged her to help us. I explained the whole situation to her, and she said what I really needed to hear..."don't worry about a thing, I'm on my way." She is going to drive through the night to be here with us so that we can collaborate over the weekend on our approach for court.
The first thing we needed to do was go to the courthouse and tell the judge that Dan was sick and we could not attend court that afternoon. Natalia was afraid that if we went to court, the judge would just send us on yet another wild hunt for papers. So, we did it...we pulled up to the courthouse and had Dan lay across the back seat in case she looked out the window. She agreed to give us the very last slot on Monday---the final day before the holiday begins.
The next thing she had us do was tell Edward that we didn't need him to work for us anymore. This was hard because he continued to live with us, but we had to show the court that we had new representation.
I am hoping and praying that this all comes together over the weekend--Monday is our last chance, and I feel sick at the prospect of losing Nadiya.
December 27, 2003
Natalia got here today and we went out to eat and tell her our whole story. She told us not to worry now that she is here--she knows the law, and will talk to the judge about things on Monday.
This is a rough weekend just waiting to find out what happens! We went to the travel agent to book our tickets for Tuesday...no matter what the outcome is, we have to leave here on Tuesday.
December 28, 2003
- FIVE WEEKS IN UKRAINE -
Another day of waiting and visiting with Nadiya. It's hard to imagine that we may not be going home with this little girl that we have come to love over the past five weeks. I am almost too upset to write, so I will leave it at that...
December 29, 2003
GOTCHA DAY! We officially adopted Mia today!
When we walked into court with Natalia, the minister of education and some of the people on the "jury" clapped when they saw her--we knew that this was a good sign! She swept into the courtroom, and completely convinced the judge from a legal standpoint that everything was in order for this adoption. It was like we were looking at a completely different judge---she agreed, and granted us the adoption! Words cannot describe how happy we are!
Even though we are the official parents of Mia, the court will hold onto our adoption documents for thirty days. During this time, they will post it in the country that this little girl is going to be adopted, and if there are any relatives that have claim to her, come forward now. It's a very nervous feeling going home and not knowing if someone will come for her.
We are on our flight from Ukraine to the states. Saying goodbye to Mia was very hard. I told her that we'd be back for her in thirty days, but I know she doesn't understand at this age. I hope that she doesn't feel abandoned yet again.
I’m suspended between two continents, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. One continent holds the children who grew in my body, while the other holds the child that has grown in my heart. I’m so excited to see our children (who I’ve not seen in five weeks), but am also sad to know that I have left Mia behind to live another month in the orphanage.
In one month, this journey will be over, and we can get on with our lives, and be happy at home with our new daughter and sister. We can hardly wait!